My Chinny Chin Chin ~ October 28, 2018 ~ Matthew 7:24-29
Lord, upon the pages of this book is your story. It is also our story. Open our eyes that we may see, our ears that we may hear, our minds that we may understand, and our hearts that they may be transformed. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Last week we read that Jesus said in Matthew 7:20 that you can identify a tree by its fruit, meaning you can identify people by their actions. Clearly, Jesus is saying, in essence, “Talk is cheap. Actions are what matter.” How that came about in my life at one point a few years ago, my two brothers and I have differing political philosophies.
They are on one side of the political fence, and my father and I are on the other. We used to have a lot of really interesting political discussions, but eventually we had to stop. I know some people have to do that because some folks can’t handle it. Politics can evoke such passion and emotion that folks lose it. First, they get annoyed, and it can quickly escalate into anger, fury, and rage. And that’s what was happening to us, unfortunately. Before you know it, a discussion about quantitative easing and its effect on the money supply and its overall impact on the economy turns into, “Oh yeah? Well your guy’s an idiot, and anyone who believes in him is an idiot too!”
What happened to intelligent discourse? Give and take? Debate? Discussion? It used to be part of a classical education, years ago back in Roman times. It was called the “trivium.” When I was growing up, we had the “Three ‘R’s” – reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic! But when Plato was growing up, it was the trivium. The trivium included grammar (wouldn’t it be great if folks still did grammar?), logic (wouldn’t it be great if folks still did logic?), and rhetoric! Rhetoric, Aristotle defined rhetoric as “the art of persuasion,” and classical educational curricula used to teach, used to include teaching people how to debate.
It was considered an important skill to have, one that you could use when you ended up joining the high school debate team. Not today. It’s sad. There is no art of persuasion anymore, today it’s “your guy’s an idiot and either you agree with me and my position or you’re an idiot too! In fact, you’re probably a Nazi and I’m going to unfriend you on Facebook!” That’s how fast it goes.
I love my brothers, but we were debating, as we frequently did, the raising of taxes. I happen to believe that the government has enough of my money. I don’t particularly think that they spend what they have already very wisely, so I don’t support giving them anymore. They have plenty. Before you knew it, I was a bad person, I was an unloving person. “Don’t you care about poor people?” and here it comes, ready? “Aren’t you supposed to be a Christian?” Whoa. Hold on there, bro. I don’t care about poor people? I’m not a good Christian?
You see how quickly things can escalate nowadays? Two guys that I love dearly who had not seen the inside of a church since the early 70s are now arbiters of all things Christian. Isn’t that interesting?
Look, I said. I put my money where my mouth is. MY money. I give to my church, and we feed hungry people every Saturday morning at Sparrow – between two and four hundred souls come for breakfast, and they get fed. We feed hungry children on Sunday mornings at Sunday school. We feed them also at Kids Klub Afterschool on Wednesday afternoons. We have a Thanksgiving Basket ministry, “Baskets of Blessings,” that is meant to bless families that are struggling in our community. We have a sister church in Haiti that we support. We keep their school open, so they can educate their children, we help Pastor Francois share the gospel in his community – to do down there what we’re trying to do here. And I go down every single year, and I roll up my sleeves and I get my hands dirty. I do whatever it is Pastor Francois and his church ask of me. That’s what I do with my money. I support my church. I try to make a difference. I know you do too.
See, lots of people talk a good game. They like the idea of helping with other people’s money. I put my money where my mouth is. You can see fruit on this tree, bro’migo. Have you gotten your hands dirty lately, Teddy Bro’sevelt? Do you give to your church, Frosty the Bro’man? When’s the last time you even went to church, Bil’bro Baggins? And you’re questioning my Christian faith, Bro’ba Fett?
Look, when the government forces me to give my money to them – and that’s what taxes are, they’re forcing you, I don’t have a choice – how’s that fruit? How can I really claim that as fruit, that I’m really helping someone out, because I don’t want to do that! I have to do that (or go to prison). Why is it I should get credit if somebody forces me? If I captured you, handcuffed you, dragged you to Sparrow on Saturday morning and said, “Feed these people!” how do you get credit for that? I put my money where my mouth is. I try to. I put my efforts where my mouth is. Lots of people talk a good game. “Look at all the hungry people in Hartford. We need to raise taxes so we can help them!” Actually, if you want to help the hungry people in Hartford, you can come every Saturday morning! And not only can you feed them. You can get to know them. You can sit with them. You can learn their names. You can share your love with them, you can share the gospel with them. You can roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty. If you want to help feed hungry people, you can do that, you can support our Sunday school. You can help support Afterschool. You can help support families with Thanksgiving Baskets. You can give to your church.
But you know what happens oftentimes? People say, “I don’t have the time to do that!” “I don’t have the money to do that!” See, what they’re really saying, in essence, is, “I want YOU to take YOUR time and feed all the hungry people in Hartford, with YOUR money (by raising taxes).” What, you don’t care about hungry people?
We can help them, but some people just talk a good game. Others act. You can see fruit. They roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. And God knows who’s who. Remember verse 21? Jesus said:
“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do…”
– Only those who actually act –
“… the will of my Father in heaven will enter.” (Matthew 7:21)
This [the Bible] is our basis for how we’re supposed to care for each other. Our foundation for how we’re supposed to serve one another and love each other. He knows not everyone will enter, because he knows that some people are all talk and no walk.
And then Jesus goes on to say in our reading this morning, verse 24:
“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” When Jesus finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with read authority – quite unlike their teachers of religious law. (Matthew 7:24-29)
Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it, and acts, is wise. His teaching. This [the Bible] is the holy, inspired, infallible (meaning absolutely trustworthy), inerrant (meaning there are no errors), word of God. It is true. Every word.
There are only two choices, think about it. Something is either true or it is false. It cannot be both. There is no such thing as, “I’m speaking MY truth.” That’s not true. Either something is true or it is untrue, which is false. This is true. All of it. In fact, it is THE truth. God, the Holy Spirit, wrote it. Yes, humans may have put pen to paper, but let me ask you. When you write a card, or when you type an email, did you write it, or did you computer produce it? You did! The computer was just a mechanism that you used to put your thoughts into a format that can be read, that can be sent. It’s the same with the Lord. Through the Holy Spirit, God used humans to put his words onto paper. These are God’s words.
Now, is there anybody here this morning, show of hands, who is perfect? Doesn’t make any mistakes? God is! Deuteronomy 32:4:
He [God] is the Rock; his deeds are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is! (Deuteronomy 32:4)
Which means Psalm 18:30:
God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. (Psalm 18:30)
Which is why Jesus told us that we are to be perfect, even as our Father in heaven is perfect. What? How is that possible? I can’t be perfect! That’s right. You can’t. Neither can I. So what, are you setting me up for failure? No. You can’t be perfect. I can’t be perfect. But Christ can be perfection for us.
You see, when we stand before God on judgment day, if he can look into our hearts and see Christ, he will see Jesus’ perfection on our behalf, and we will be saved. That’s how it works. If perfection is the standard – and it is – without Christ, we are lost. With Christ, he is our perfection for us. What do we have to do? Just love him. Love Jesus as he loved us.
How? He told us. In John 14, Jesus said:
“If you love me, obey my commandments.”
“Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” (John 14:15, 21)
So, if we love Jesus, we’re supposed to obey his commandments. We need to build our house on a solid foundation.
Now, you do understand that when he says build your house, he’s using the house as an analogy for who you are as a person. Your moral core. Your human characteristics. Who you are, your personality. When you build your house on a solid foundation, we’re building something that can withstand anything. When we build our house on our own wisdom – on human understanding – we’re building our house on people like you and me, who just admitted we are not perfect! When we decide that we know better, that we know what’s right and wrong, that we know what’s moral and immoral, that we know what’s just and unjust, we are willingly accepting imperfection, and rejecting perfection.
Don’t trust your instincts. Lord knows I don’t trust mine. Trust Jesus’ instincts. Don’t listen to your friends. Listen to your Father in heaven. That’s what Paul was talking about when he reminds us in Romans 12:2 – I must read this Scripture twelve times a month
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world…
– this is a fallen world, this is a sinful world, do we need any more examples than the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh? There is someone who let the world lead him, another concrete piece of evidence that Satan rules this world, that evil is true and it exists –
Don’t copy the behaviors and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
I know it’s hard, believe me, I know it’s hard. We are often tempted to think that we know better. “Oh, this thing was written 2000 years ago, how could this possibly apply to today? Things are different, times have changed!” It’s got nothing to do with time! We thought we knew better from the first day! Adam and Eve? They thought they knew better! Do you remember how Satan tempted Adam and Eve?
Genesis 3:1, he said to them:
“Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” (Genesis 3:1)
Did you catch that? Satan got Adam and Eve to question what God said. To doubt his word. Did God really say that? I don’t know, maybe he didn’t. Maybe he misunderstands. And they built their house on their own wisdom – on sand – and it all came crashing down. Adam and Eve thought they knew better. They didn’t. The people in Noah’s day thought they knew better. They didn’t either, and it rained. The people who built the Tower of Babel thought they knew better. They didn’t. Do not be tempted to think we know better. We don’t either.
You know, one of my favorite paintings – there’s a copy of it in my office, if you walk in my office right past the closet on the wall there is this painting – Revelation 3 verse 20.
God is standing at the door, and Jesus says,
“Look, I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” (Revelation 3:20)
Jesus is knocking on our door, waiting, hoping, praying, but you’ve got to do something. You’ve got to act. You’ve got to get up off the couch of complacency, you have to open the door, and you have to invite him in. That’s on you. He won’t knock the door down. He stands and knocks.
There’s someone else knocking at your door too – the Evil One. The Big Bad Wolf. He’s trying to tempt us. “Little piggie, little piggie, let me come in!” What does he mean by let me come in? “Let me come in and plant seeds of uncertainty. Let me come in and plant seeds of doubt. Let me come in and plant seeds of distrust. Did God really say that?”And just like the deteriorating foundations because of too much pyrite in the cement here in Connecticut that’s all over the news, Satan is trying to get people to question what God says, to doubt his word, to build their foundations on sand – on human wisdom. Because when we do that, at the first sign of trouble, at the first sign of hardship or crisis, our house will come crashing down. We may lose our faith and turn away from God. Believe me, that strategy has worked amazingly for the Evil One for 2000 years. That’s how we started at the beginning, with the very first two humans! Did God really say that? And it all went south.
It’s the same thing he’s saying today. Did God really say that? And it will all go south. We need to reply. “Little piggie, little piggie! Let me come in!” We need to reply by saying, “No! Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin!” We need to try to resist what oftentimes sounds good, looks good, feels good. However, trying to resist temptation on our own is like living in a house of straw or sticks. Eventually, it will fall down. Build your house, build your faith, on a solid foundation. Listen to his teachings and follow them, act upon them. Listen to the word become human, the truth, the way, and the life that is Jesus the Christ. When we do that, Satan can huff and puff, but he’ll never be able to blow our house in.
You build your faith on the truth? There will never be a wind, never be a tornado, never be a storm, never be a hurricane, never be a crisis in your life that you will not be able to overcome. Build your house on a solid foundation. If we do, there will be no temptation that you will not be able to resist. Will I what? Absolutely not! Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin!
And all God’s people said, AMEN!