Pouring the Foundation
Matthew 7:24-27 & 2 Timothy 3:15-4:4
Copyright © 2004 Jeremy Myers
A. Built on God's Word (Matt. 7:24-27)
B. Preach the Word! (2 Tim. 3:15-4:4)
A very short man was trying to hang a large picture very high up on a wall. He stood on a chair, but it was not high enough. His wife placed a box on the chair, but he was still short of his goal. So a stool was placed on top of the box. Finally, he was high enough. Balancing himself precariously, the man began to tap timidly with his hammer. "Why don’t you hit it hard?" asked the wife. "You'll never drive in the nail that way!" The man looked down from his perch to reply, "How can a man hit anything hard on a shaky foundation like this?"
Similarly, too many churches today are trying to go about God's work while standing on a shaky foundation. It is not surprising that they can't get much done, they don't have anything firm on which to stand. When churches rely on such things as corporate philosophies, marketing strategies, business principles, worldly philosophy, human wisdom, political activism, opinion surveys, or the latest church growth fad to hit the bookshelves, it's just a matter of time before those churches come crashing to the ground. If you are going to do God's Work, you must stand on God's foundation.
As we are currently taking a break from our verse by verse study of the book of Luke and spending a few week learning about God's Blueprints for Church Growth, we come today to learn about the all important foundation.
A few weeks ago, we learned that since the church is GOD's church, since He is the Architect of the church, we need to do things His way. Two weeks ago we learned from Ephesians 1-3 the incredible riches God has placed at our disposal in order to build His church. Last week, from Ephesians 4-6, we saw how each one of us is responsible to use these riches as we walk toward Christian maturity. Today, we want to talk about the foundation the church is built upon. We know Who the Architect is. We know what our budget is. We know what our goal is. Now, we need to begin working. And the place to start is with the most important and necessary part of any building - the foundation. We will look at what the foundation is, and how the foundation is poured. To see this, we will be looking at two passages today. The first is Matthew 7:24-27. Matthew 7:24-27 tells us that the foundation upon which God's church is built is the Word of God.
A. Built on God's Word (Matt. 7:24-27)
There was a Pastor in Kansas City, Missouri who was asked one Sunday by some visitors if they could see the church constitution. He noticed they were carrying their Bibles, so he told them, "You have it in your hands. Our church is governed by the Word of God." Many churches and denominations have books and manuals and numbered lists about how to govern and guide the church, but if we aren't following God's Word, all of these things are just spinning our wheels. The Bible should be the standard operating procedure for the church.
You want to know what programs and church meetings to have? Look in the Word. You want to know how we should evangelize our neighborhood? Look in the Word. You want to know what our church teaches about homosexuality, divorce, adultery and abortion? Look in the Word. Do you want to know what our opinions are on how to raise a family? On women as pastors? On paying taxes? We would simply turn to the Word to see what God's opinions are. If God's church is going to be built with God's riches toward God's goal, then it must be built on God's Word. The foundation of the church is the Word of God. This is the only sure foundation that there is. If you are in Matthew 7, look at verses 24-27 with me. It's a story you are all familiar with - the story of the wise and foolish builders.
24"Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.
26"But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."
This story contains two different builders. Both build homes, and both homes go through a terrible storm. But the first builder builds his home on a solid rock foundation. And because of his good foundation, when the storm comes, his house stands firm. The second builder builds his home on sand. Sand is not a good foundation at all, and so when the same storm comes against him, his house is crushed by the storm.
This story, just like all the stories of Jesus, has a great spiritual truth. Jesus tells us in verse 24 and also in verse 26 that the solid rock foundation is when you hear His sayings, hear His words, hear the Word of God, and obey it. The faulty, shaky foundation is when you do not obey God's Word. Which builder are you? Which builder am I? Which builder is this church?
Most people automatically assume that they are the wise builder because they have the Word of God. The average Christian thinks, "Well, I have a better foundation that that heathen neighbor of mine who goes to the bars all the times and watches television instead of coming to church. I have the Word of God, and I read the Bible, and I go to church, so I have a better foundation for life than he does."
But notice that in the story, both builders have the Word of God. Both builders have heard the teachings of Jesus. Both of these builders are good people, who probably read their Bibles, attend church and pray regularly. The difference between the two is no that one owns a Bible and one doesn't. The difference between the two is not that one has Bible knowledge and one doesn't.
The difference between the two is that one obeys the Word and one doesn't. When it comes to individual Christians or individual churches, the one that is built on a solid foundation is not determined by which one knows the Bible better, but by which one obeys the Bible more completely. James says in James 1:23 that the man who reads the Bible and doesn't do what it says is like the one who looks in a mirror, but then doesn't do anything about the messy hair or the facial blemishes, or any of the other problems he sees. What good is it to own a Bible, or read the Bible, but never obey the Bible?
All churches have the Word of God, but only those churches that understand and obey the Word are those that are built on the divinely approved foundation. Only those churches built on obedience to the Word of God will stand the test of time and weather the storms of life.
Any physical building with a faulty foundation will crumble and be destroyed within a few short years. A bad foundation will result in cracked windows, jammed doors, creaky floors and essentially, a building that is falling apart. Sadly, this is the way we could describe many of our churches today. They are falling apart. Now when I say that, I am not talking about the building itself – I am talking about the church body of believers. We are torn by strife and dissention, arguments and disagreements. I have heard of churches splitting over the color of the carpet and whether or not to have coffee in the foyer. All of this points to the lack of a good foundation.
And what are they lacking? They are lacking a focus and an emphasis about getting the Word of God into the minds and hearts of believers so that they can apply it and obey it in their lives. According to God, the Bible is the foundation He wants poured for His church. The problem is that many people don't want the Bible today. They want entertainment and high quality music and numerous programs and options and nice buildings and the list goes on and on. And all of these are nice trappings for a church to have. But without the proper foundation, all of these things are worthless.
Many of the large cities of the world are known for the skyscrapers. Chicago, where my wife grew up, and where I spent three years in college, is known for the John Hancock Building and the Sears Tower. And as beautiful as those buildings are, you know that underneath each one is an incredibly strong and solid foundation. Nobody in the construction world ever imagines that you can skimp on the foundation. No matter how creative the building is, no matter how many cost-cutting corners a construction company takes, nobody cuts corners on the foundation.
Ravi Zacharias tells us that Newsweek had an article several years ago which hailed the completion of the "first deconstructionist building."
It's white scaffolding, red brick turrets, and Colorado grass pods evoke a double take. But puzzlement only intensifies when you enter the building, for inside you encounter stairways that go nowhere, pillars that hang from the ceiling without purpose, and angled surfaces configured to created a sense of vertigo.
The architect, we are duly informed designed this building to reflect life itself – senseless and incoherent – and the 'capriciousness of the rules that organize the built world.' When the rationale was explained to me, I had just one question: 'Did he do the same with the foundation?'
No matter how strange a building looks from the outside, there are always solid and traditional foundations. But for some reason, many modern churches want to skip the God given foundation, and go right to the fancy building itself. But the fancy and exciting building will not last long if it does not have the solid foundation of God's Word to support it. A church therefore, which is not founded on the Word of God and is not devoted to studying and obeying it, is a church with a faulty foundation. It may be a church that gains much recognition and glory in the eyes of man, but it will not be a church that is pleasing to God. Only a church that hears and obeys God's Word will be pleasing to Him.
If some of today's church leaders had been Christ's apostles, what do you think they would focus on and how would their church look? One writer came up this possible board meeting scenario if church leaders of today had been Christ's apostles:
Pete calls the meeting to order. "This meeting has been called at the request of Mat, John, Tom and Little Jim. Bart, will you please open with prayer?"
"Certainly," Bart says. "Almighty God, we ask Your Blessing on all we do and say and earnestly pray that You will see our side as Your side. Amen."
"Let's get right to business," begins Pete. "Jesus, we have been following you for some time now, and we are getting a little concerned about the attendance figures. Tom, how many were on the hill yesterday?"
"Thirty-seven," Tom answered.
"Yes," Pete continues. "It's getting to be ridiculous, Jesus. You're going to have to pep things up to keep the people interested. We expect things to start happening. Isn't that right John?"
"Yeah! I'd like to suggest you pull off more miracles, Jesus. That walking on water bit was the most exciting thing I have ever seen, but only a few of us saw it. If a thousand or more had a chance to witness it, and if we could televise it, we would have more than we could handle on the hill."
"I agree," says Little Jim. "The healing miracles are terrific, but only a limited number really get to see what has happened. Let's have more water to wine, more fish and chips (it never hurts to fill people's stomachs), calm more storms, give more signs. All the opinion surveys say that this is what people want."
"Right," says Pete. "And another thing. Publicity is essential, but you tell half the people you cure to keep it quiet. Let the word get around. Maybe we should advertise a bit. We could say, 'Miracles and Healing performed weekly.' That'll bring them in."
"That's a great idea," Matt exclaims. "And along with the miracles, Jesus, you should tell more stories. People don't have the attention spans to listen to long sermons and explanations of boring Old Testament texts. I know you do tell some stories, but nobody ever understands them! You have to make it simple and clear in order for anybody to take anything home with them. You know what they say, "Put the cookies on the bottom shelf.'"
"Here is the order of service we have all agreed on, Jesus," says Big Jim. "First, a story. Then a big miracle, followed by the offering. It's been proven that people will give more money after a miracle. You could maybe throw in a wise saying or two after the offering, but keep it short and sweet. After this, do another smaller miracle to bring them back next time. And then close with a prayer. This will really help keep our attendance."
"That's right," said Judas. "And we should probably think about improving the appearance of the upper room. That carpet color is just atrocious."
And the meeting continued with more of the same.
Can you imagine Jesus putting up with a meeting like that? He never would have. And yet, these are the kind of actions and attitudes that are prominent in thousands of churches around the world. Such churches are trying to build a church without pouring an adequate foundation. Jesus has told us what that foundation is - hearing and obeying the Word of God. If we are going to do God's Work, we must stand on God's Word.
But let's get even more specific than this. You see, almost every church believes that they stand on God's Word. In fact, I challenge you to find a church that thinks they don't stand on God's Word! Every church believes that they are standing on God's Word. But are they really?
Well, guess what? God's Word tells us HOW to stand on God's Word. The Bible tells us what it looks like when a church is truly standing on God's Word. Did you know that? There is a way to determine which churches are truly standing on God's Word and which churches are not. Though all churches claim to be founded on God's Word, God tells us how to know which churches are truly founded on His Word.
God tells us in numerous places in the Old Testament and in the New Testament how to pour the foundation of the Word (Hos. 4:6; Nehemiah 8; Amos 8:11; Luke 4:43-44; Acts 2:42; 6:1-7; Rom. 10:8-14; 1 Cor. 1:17-23; Col. 1:25; 1 Tim. 5:17; 2 Tim. 3:15-4:4; 1 Pet. 5:1-4). One of the clearest places is in 2 Timothy 3-4. 1 and 2 Timothy are letters written by the Apostle Paul to Timothy, the young pastor of the church in Ephesus. Paul wrote these two letters to tell Timothy what he should focus on and what his priorities should be in the church.
B. Preach the Word! (2 Tim. 3:15-4:4)
Look at 2 Timothy 3:15 with me. Paul writes to Timothy,
15and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
Verse 15 contains the purpose of the Word of God. He says the Scriptures are able to make you wise. Do you want to be wise? The only way to truly get wise is to learn the Scriptures. As we already learned from Matthew 7, it is the wise man who built his house upon the Word of God. Paul says the same thing here. Those who learn the Scriptures will become wise. Those who neglect the Scriptures will continue to be ignorant and foolish.
Next in verse 16, we learn of the origin of Scripture.
16All Scripture is given by inspiration of God,
I am convinced that most Christians just think the Bible is another book with a collection of stories and sayings - some of them interesting, some of them boring. But what most Christians don't realize is that the Bible is not like any other book ever written! The Bible is the Word of God! All other books are the word of man. And I will never understand why some Christians would rather listen to the words of men rather than listen to the Word of God. The Bible comes straight from God, and as such, should be given priority and prominence in our lives and in our churches.
And as the Word of God, the rest of verse 16 tells us what it is profitable for.
and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
There is a huge movement in churches today away from doctrine and away from correction, and away from instruction. A lot of churches say, "Don’t talk about sin. Don't talk about theology. Don't make your services a time of instruction - make them entertaining and enjoyable." But this movement away from these things is a movement away from God, for verse 16 says that doctrine and correction and instruction is what God wants! It's the world that doesn't want these things, and churches that don't provide these things are catering to the world rather than obeying God.
And the purpose of all of this is in verse 17.
17that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Verse 17 says that it is the Word of God alone that causes Christians to mature, to become complete, to become equipped, to become enabled to live Godly lives, to complete good works, rather than continue to live in sin. Do you want to know why the walk of so many Christians ends in complete failure today? Most of the blame can be laid right at the feet of churches and pastors who are not giving Christians the Word of God. When the Word of God is not taught, Christians do not mature, and are not equipped, and are therefore not able to walk in good works, but instead continue to walk in darkness and sin. A church that does not teach the Word of God is a church that is starving it's members.
Which is why in 2 Timothy 4:1-2, Paul commands Timothy to Preach the Word.
1I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2Preach the word!
Paul could not have emphasized this any stronger. He says in verse one that he will have to stand before the judgement seat of Christ to answer to Christ for how well and how faithfully he preached the Word. He says, "Look, Timothy, you want to know what you should do as a pastor? I charge you, I command you, I urge you, to preach the Word!"
Paul does not say, "Preach about the Word," he says, "Preach the Word!" He doesn't say, "Have a discussion about the Word," he says, "Preach the Word!" He doesn't say, "Read the Word and then tell humorous jokes and stories," he says, "Preach the Word!"
Martin Lloyd Jones, a great preacher and Biblical scholar said that most of the things that pastors and churches focus on should at best, be secondary to the preaching of the Word of God. And Timothy maybe said something like, "But people don't want to hear the Word. Some people get bored with the Word. It takes a lot of time to preach the Word. Some people won't understand the Word. It's not very exciting to preach the Word."
So tells him in the rest of verse 2 that it doesn't really matter what people say, or what people thing, He is to continue to preach the Word.
He says, Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. That means when it's popular and when it's not. When people want the Word and when they don't. When the complain that the sermons are too long, and when they say they aren't long enough. And I don't think I need to tell you that we are living in a day and age when preaching the Word is out of season. We are living in a time that fits right in with verse 3-4.
3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
This is the time we are living in. Do you want to know why there are so many different churches and denominations today? There are many reasons, but one of them is that people don't want to hear the Word, they just want to gather around themselves teachers who simply tell them what they want to hear. Now, the Bible is not opposed to having several churches in a community. The Bible is not opposed to different denominations. The Bible is not opposed to non-denominational churches. But what the Bible, and what God is opposed to is churches that neglect the preaching of the Word of God for other things. All churches that are being built according to God's blueprints will have the preaching of the Word of God as a central and defining characteristic. We've seen this from Matthew 7. We've seen this from 2 Timothy 3-4.
Let me get very specific for you in closing. There is a lot of confusion today about what it means to preach the Word. Most Christians imagine that as long as a Scripture verse or two is quoted somewhere in the sermon, then the Word is being preached. Most churches today say that they believe in the centrality and authority of the Word of God. But when you attend their services, the real truth is seen.
If they really believe that the Bible is the foundation of the church, how come the Bible doesn't get more attention in the church service? Most churches today, if they have an hour long service, give only one quarter of the service to the sermon, and even then, the sermons will have very little in them about the Bible (Prov. 13:13). Dr. Earl Radmacher has rightly said that Christianity today is a hundred miles wide and half an inch deep. I am convinced that this is because most churches today are no longer built upon the Word of God as their foundation. Churches today are no longer preaching the Word. And what does it look like to preach the Word?
We have numerous examples throughout the Bible and numerous descriptions of what it means to preach the Word. For example, in Nehemiah 8, we learn that Ezra the scribe stood and read the Word, and as he went along, he gave the sense, he explained the text, and he applied it to the lives of his hearers.
Preaching the Word demands that a passage of Scripture is read, then the passage is explained in its historical and grammatical context, and then the passage is applied. We know that this is the way God has wanted His Word taught throughout time - from the Old Testament up until now. And we also know that always, whenever the church as a whole has gone into decline and Christians have fallen into sinful ways of living, the one thing that characterized that period of church history is when pastors were not preaching the Word. At the same time, the greatest revivals and periods of church renewal throughout history have come with renewed interest in and emphasis upon the careful preaching of the Word of God. So, we will preach the Word! We will preach the Bible.
But the Bible is a big book. There is a lot of information in this book. So if we are going to preach the Word, we need to break it down into bite-size pieces. Have you ever heard how to eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Or, to look at it another way, since we’re talking about pouring foundations, let me put it in construction terms.
Several years back, I went on a missions deep into Mexico to help construct a church. And when we go there, one of the things they needed to do was pour the foundation for the church. But this part of Mexico was very mountainous and they had no way of getting a cement truck up there, and nobody owned a cement mixer. They didn't have hoses or running water either. There was a small mountain stream running through town, and the church was about 200 yards uphill from the stream. So here is what we had to do. We had to carry water up the hill from the river in five gallon buckets to a place near the church where we mixed the concrete with shovels. After it was well mixed, we then had to carry the concrete bucket by bucket and pour it into the molds for the foundation. It took a long time, but we got it done.
This is the same way to pour the spiritual foundation by preaching the Word - one bucket at a time. One shovel full at a time. One piece at a time. And there are two Biblical ways, and two ways only, of doing this.First is the systematic method. This is book by book, chapter by chapter, verse by verse teaching. The pastor picks a book a book of the Bible, and then, beginning with chapter 1, verse 1, he teaches through the book until they conclude. That is the first way to preach the Word (Neh. 8; Isa. 28:10-13; Acts 20:27). And that is my preferred method of teaching. Right now, on Sunday mornings, we normally are in the Book of Luke, and Sunday nights, we normally are in the book of Genesis, and on Wednesday nights, we are in the book of Acts. But currently, on Sunday mornings, and Sunday nights, we are following the second way of preaching the Word.
The second way to preach the Word is the doctrinal method. In this method, the pastor picks a doctrine of Scripture, selects several key passages in the Bible that deal with this doctrine, and then explains each of these individual passages in their context (1 Tim. 1:3; 4:13-16; Titus 1:9; 2:1). Right now, on Sunday mornings, we are taking a short break from Luke to explain the doctrine of church growth. Several weeks ago, I explained Ephesians 1-3. Last week, we looked at Ephesians 4-6. Today, we are looking at Matthew 7 and 2 Timothy 3-4.
Similarly, on Sunday nights, we are currently taking a break from the book of Genesis to talk about the doctrine of salvation. We have looked at Ephesians 2:8-9, the Gospel of John, James 2:14-27, the book of 1 John, and tonight, we will be studying a passage out of Romans 2.
These are the two God ordained ways of preaching the Word and thereby laying a foundation for His church. Trying to build a church on any other foundation is insane! God has told us where to begin, and we would do well to listen and obey! Again, this is why we spend about ˝ of our morning service studying God's Word in a way that will have the most impact upon you who hear. Other methods might appear to have success in the world's eyes, but they are a dismal failure in God's. When you come to church, you should expect and even demand that you receive the clear communication of God's Word into your life. You need to be trained Biblically. Without that, neither you nor this church will have an adequate foundation upon which to stand.