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Foolish: The Good Life (7)

. 3 min read
2014/02/23 
Prayer,
Psalm 1
Children,
John 4.34
Message,
Matthew 7.12-29
Performed
Song, “The Man of Galilee”
“If
it is not worth doing the hard way, it is not worth doing at all”
      MacGyver, doing it the difficult way
To
be called to a life of extraordinary quality, to live up to it, and yet to be
unconscious of it is indeed a narrow way. To confess and testify to the truth
as it is in Jesus, and at the same time to love the enemies of that truth, his
enemies and ours, and to love them with the infinite love of Jesus Christ, is
indeed a narrow way. To believe the promise of Jesus that his followers shall
possess the earth, and at the same time to face our enemies unarmed and
defenceless [sic], preferring to
incur injustice rather than to do wrong ourselves, is indeed a narrow way. To
see the weakness and wrong in others, and at the same time refrain from judging
them; to deliver the gospel message without casting pearls before swine, is
indeed a narrow way. The way is unutterably hard, and at every moment we are in
danger of straying from it.
      Bonhoeffer, 211
Two
gates and two ways
Good
trees with good fruit; bad trees with bad fruit
Wise
and foolish builders; foundations of stone and sand
These
three figures in series divide the human race, divide perhaps the kingdom
itself, divide even the individual human being – body and soul.  Over and over the crucial question is
obedience.  “Everyone who hears these
words of mine and acts on them” (7.24).  “Not
everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but
only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (7.21).  “Thus you will know them by their fruits”
(7.20).
      My personal reading: Ezra – study, do,
teach (Ezra 7.10)

The
crucial question is obedience.  But it is
too easy for us to reduce this to moralism, to legalism, because the word we
must obey is not explicitly stated here. 
We like to have a list, we like to check it twice.  We forget that at the beginning of this
message, Jesus repeatedly drilled down beneath the surface of the commandment
to the state of the heart, from adultery to lust, from murder to anger.  Later in Matthew’s gospel, a man came to
Jesus and asked what he needed to do to have eternal life.  Jesus told him to keep the commandments.  “Which ones?” 
Jesus listed several.  “I have
kept all these.  What do I still lack?”  “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your
possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in
heaven.  Then come, follow me” (Matthew
19.16-22).
      There is no checklist for the kind of
obedience Jesus requires.  It is simple,
and simply impossible.  It is total, and
totally impossible: Give up everything to follow Jesus.  Give up everything to be Jesus’ friend.  Jesus isn’t looking for moralists who keep
all the rules.  Jesus isn’t looking for
employees who follow the handbook.  Jesus
isn’t even looking for miracle workers who do powerful things.  Jesus is looking for friends, friends to
follow him, friends to live with him. 
When he says to the miracle workers, “I never knew you” (7.23), the Greek word used for “know” is a word for
knowledge gained through perception (not research or employee records) and
direct experience.  It is used
euphemistically for sexual intercourse (Friberg lexicon).
      Jesus is looking for friends, people he
knows because they have given up everything to be known by him.  It is that call – the word of the Lord –  and obedience to it, that sets us apart as his
people.
1 Corinthians 3:11  For no one can lay any foundation other than
the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.  Paul’s comment reminds us that the obedience
of faith is not moralistic or legalistic, it is all about Jesus – knowing him,
being known by him, becoming his friends.
Abraham,
“friend of God” (2 Chronicles 20.7, Isaiah 41.8, James 2.23)
Gen
22.12, “now I know” (Abraham offering Isaac) “that you fear God”
      Jesus is looking for friends, people he
knows because they have given up everything to be known by him.  When he sees that, he declares, as he did
over Abraham, “Now I know”.
Resources:

Dietrich
Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, “The Great Divide”