Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jan 9 2013 - Matthew 7:15-29 – A Firm and Fruitful Foundation

A superficial reading of Matthew 7:21-23 may leave one perplexed. Jesus says that those who do the will of his Father will enter the kingdom of heaven but he then rejects many who have prophesied in his name and cast out demons. Surely such acts, particularly the casting out of demons, amount to doing God's will?

However, that is, as I say, a superficial reading of Jesus' words. The parable of the trees and their fruit which precedes these words, and that of the wise and foolish builders which follow, make it clear that Jesus is drawing a contrast between an outward show of religion and true discipleship. A true disciple is one who has been transformed from the inside out; one who obeys Jesus from the heart. The things they do are an expression of who they truly are. Don't be deceived by someone who merely adopts the outward form of religion. They are like a wolf dressed up in the fleece from a sheep. Even more important, don’t be like that yourself.

The well-known parable of the wise and foolish builders illustrates the same point. For all its architectural innovation and splendour, the house built on sand will be swept away. It is like a sandcastle that you build for a child on the beach. You may put a great deal of work into it and take great pride in your achievement, but it will be swept away by the incoming tide and no trace of it will remain. On the other hand, the house built upon a rock, despite maybe its comparative simplicity, stands firm in the day of trial. It’s the foundations that make all the difference.

The only adequate foundation for a life that will last the test of time and stand secure in the Day of Judgment is Jesus himself and the words that he has spoken.

We need to act as building inspectors of our own lives, ensuring that we are always building on this solid foundation.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus' name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand…

His oath, His covenant, and blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When every earthly prop gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found,
Clothed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne!
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

On one occasion, I got from the internet plans of the foundations of a variety of buildings and challenged people to identify them. They were able to identify a cathedral, the Royal Albert Hall, even the Whitehouse. This was possible because the general shape of a building is determined by its foundations. In the same way, the life built on Jesus Christ will be Christ shaped and cruciform – a life devoted to the service of others. The fruit of such a life is the result of the branches drawing their sustenance from the tree of life; from Jesus and his cross.

Lord Jesus, help me to build upon this one foundation and, like a master builder, build strong and true. May every other foundation for my life be swept away. Help me not only to recognise your authority but to do what you say. May I daily live in close communion with you and continually draw my life from you, bearing much fruit – fruit that will last.

Jan 9 2019 - Genesis 6:1-22 – Judgment and grace

A few pages separate Genesis chapters 1 and 6, but what a contrast between the two passages. When God first made the world it reflected his own character and glory. God pronounced it to be good, very good. And on the seventh day God rested in satisfied enjoyment of all that he had made.

But now everything has changed. The earth is filled with violence and wickedness: "And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart" (Genesis 6:6). His spoilt world grieves the heart of God and he determines to do away with it. The God of the Scriptures is a God of passion: passionate love and concern for his creatures and particularly for humankind made in his image, made to share his heart.

And love can hurt. The heart of God is grieved over a world gone wrong. He is not grieved simply because his creation has been spoilt – like a child upset when their sandcastle is trodden on. No, he is grieved at a world that no longer returns his love: the grief of a deserted lover. Nor is his judgment an act of spite; it is, if we could but understand it, an act of kindness in putting an end to a world that has lost its way – putting an end to violence and wickedness.

And here we come across one of the wonderful "but"s of the Bible. God determined to blot out humankind from the face of the earth, "But Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord" (Genesis 6:8). My Hebrew teacher, Alec Motyer, used to say that when we read that "Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord" (KJV), we need to understand that grace found Noah. God's judgment is not utter destruction; in grace he determines to make a new world with Noah as a second Adam.

Noah is to build a great boat that will be the means of saving him, his family and representatives of all the creatures of the earth; they too are to have a new beginning.

Through the coming flood the world will be baptised: it will face judgment and the sentence of death; but out of it the earth will know resurrection – all things are made new, cleansed and recreated.

Noah, we read, "did all that God commanded him" – it's repeated, just in case we missed it the first time (6:22; 7:5). Just imagine if he had not done all that was required – if he had left the ark, this great boat, unfinished, or if he had failed to take the necessary food on board. The world is saved from utter destruction by the grace of God, but it is also through the obedience of this one man.

The passion in the heart of God that moves him to judgment and mercy finds its ultimate focus in the passion of the Christ – his ultimate baptism. This is where grief threatens to tear apart the heart of God and judgment falls on a world gone wrong. Our salvation has been secured through the grace of God and the obedience of one man upon whom God's favour rests – a man who did all that the Father asked of him. The terrible act in which judgment falls upon rebellious humanity is also the means by which we are brought safe to glory. Through the cross of Christ, the Last Adam, the Lord has secured a people for himself, a people recreated in his own image. Here is amazing love, amazing grace.

Lord God, how can I thank you for your saving grace? I praise you for the perfect obedience of my Saviour in whom I am brought through floods and flames into the life of the new creation. Help me to follow him in living in obedience to all your commandments. Help me to reflect the image of your Son.

Peter Misselbrook