Thursday, December 7, 2017

Going to church or dwelling in Truth?

Matt 7: 21, 21-24

Matthew chapter 7 is a very interesting chapter.  It’s kind of a “Cliff notes” of the Christian walk.  We start the chapter with an important directive, “Don’t judge people or you will have judgment heaped on you.”  Then we go into, “Don’t cast pearls before swine.”  We are told to ask, knock and seek.  We are reminded that the path to holiness is a narrow one.  Then we are told how to spot false prophets (fake people in general.) All that brings us to today’s readings in which we are told about self-deception, and the difference between someone really walking with Him and doing what he asks, and those who pay only lip-service.  This is how we wrap up chapter 7.  Jesus tells us, time and time again, that among the church there will be tares among the wheat and this is another of those times.  He straight says to the people in verse 21: "Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”  If that isn’t intimidating enough he goes on to say in 22 and 23  22Many will say to me on that day, 'LORD, LORD, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' 23Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'  

I’ve read that verse dozens of times, and if you are paying attention, that’s pretty sobering stuff.  When I meditate on it, in connection with the previous verses in chapter 7, we begin to see this person/these people as people who took the title of Catholic or Christian as a life style, like cultural clothes.  They sang in the choir, or they were priests, nuns, sacristans, whatever you like….but they didn’t do any of the things asked of us in earlier in the chapter.  Jesus even tells us earlier in the chapter how to discern between this kind of walk, and the true walk of the righteous.  Look at the fruit we bear verse 15:  “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.  Now, there we are talking about prophets, but for two reasons I don’t think it’s a huge leap if we apply this as a barometer for what a ‘good’ Christian walk looks like. 

The first reason I think this is applicable to the walk in general is because of what a prophet truly is.   A prophet is a truth teller.  In the modern context we tend to see a prophet as a teller of the future.  That can be true, but if you look at what the prophets of the old testament did most it was tell the truth when lies were societies paradigm.  If you know the truth, then you see the lie for what it is, and in seeing the lie you know (can extrapolate) the outcome.  The outcome of lie is usually destruction of some kind.  People caught in the amber of lie see the truth teller as having some mystical knowledge of the future, because they have been blinded to the outcome of living the lie.  The prophet has grace given wisdom about the lie because they live outside of it inside the truth, so it’s really not a huge leap of understanding to see the outcome.  (If you ever wondered why the prophets of old seem to be a grumpy lot, this would do it.  When the truth seems like common sense to you, and everyone around you is being a jerk and not listening to the truth you have that would save them…that, I think would tend to make one grumpy.)  So, the fruit of the good prophet is truth, which spares us from destruction.  At the same time, the fruit of a true Christian walk is walking in truth, which spares us from destruction.  If we are on a self-destructive path, and bringing people down around us, then we aren’t walking in truth. 

The second reason I think this connects to the walk is because Jesus say in John 15 of a vine grafted onto the true vine, that apart from Him we cannot bear fruit.  So, I think there is a strong case for us seeing not only a prophet but all of us in that context. If Jesus is truth, are we connected to that truth, and if we are we cannot help but bear good fruit. 

And here is the thing, in verse 24-27, Jesus tells us the difference between the two.  It’s a foundational point on which the whole of our walk is based.  24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!”

He tells us very plainly the difference between those who are in church, and those who dwell in truth.  The people who simply go to church and do the church thing as a cultural part of their life, hear but do not do.  The people who are dwelling in truth, hear and then act on what they hear.  The difference is being around the truth, and living the truth in act and deed.  Those trying to live the truth, even though the storms of life come their faith will sustain them. 

Dr. Kreeft is quoted as saying, “If anyone claims to have met Jesus without being changed, he has not met Him at all.  When you touch Him, you touch lightening.”  I believe this is truth, because I cannot now dwell in a lie and be satisfied.  I cannot be satisfied by simply going to church, as I desire to embody the truth.  In reading today’s Gospel, I can’t help but believe when we have that desire we are on the right path. 

Just some food for thought and prayer….

Heavenly Father, grant me a heart that wishes to dwell and act in Your truth.  Let me hear obey with my words and actions. Let your will and word dwell in me so I do not deceive myself and others, but bear sweet fruit for the Kingdom.  In Jesus name, Amen!

Here I am, Lord, send me!

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