Jesus the only True Foundation
In Jesus, Ken Page
Lately I seem to be obsessed with the concept of foundation. By this I mean that I am always trying to see the root or base of things. I find myself asking questions like these: What is at the heart of the apathy and ineffectiveness of the church? Why do many Christians seem so unmotivated about the issues of the Kingdom of God? Why aren't the Bible and its doctrinal truths as clear as they could be? Why all the division in the Church?
The idea of foundation speaks of the very core of our understanding of truth and life. It speaks of what we believe to be the bottom line. Our foundation is not what we say or think it is. It is the reality of what makes us tick. It reveals to us what we believe is of lasting and eternal value. It is what we will fight for. It determines how and what we do with our time, life and resources. It also is the lens by which we understand the meaning of everything.
We all have foundations. I believe that few have a conscious understanding of their own. I believe even fewer are standing on the right one. Many believe and say that they have such-and-such a foundation, but in reality they do not. Many have been indoctrinated by another's foundation- but they do not own it for themselves. Many have the right foundation label but it is erroneously applied to the wrong one.
I would encourage you to take some time to examine your foundation. Cut through your "statements" of foundation and come to grips with your "life" foundation. What makes you tick? Why do you make the choices you do? What is your core hope or means for living the life God wants for you? Are you really standing on solid ground?
I want to offer you what I believe to be the only lasting and solid foundation. You will quickly recognize the label- but do not assume it to be your actual foundation. I have proclaimed this label all of my Christian life, but it has rarely been an accurate assessment of my own. Even today, I am quite aware that my understanding of this foundation is far ahead of my living.
The Person of Jesus is the one and only Foundation. I emphasize Person. He is alive. He is with us. He alone continues to make us right with God. He alone holds the power to "grow" us into the people God wants us to be. He alone is wisdom. Jesus alone chooses and controls the agenda of our lives. The Christian's true foundation is squarely placed in the life of Someone else. A Christian does not operate, control or work his or her Foundation- Jesus the True Foundation works Himself out in us.
One of my favorite verses is John 14:6, "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.'". The way of life is not a system but a relationship with a person. Truth is not merely a compiling of facts; but truth in my soul is Jesus Himself living in and through me. For example, the truth about loving someone is not to know that you should love them- but the truth is when you actually love him or her. The energy and motivation for me to live life comes through the abiding presence of Jesus within.
To help cut to the quick of what I mean and to shake your mind out of complacency, I will tell you straight out- the Bible is not my foundation. To some this denotes the cardinal sin of Evangelicalism. In reality I think it exposes the false foundation that many are standing on. Jesus Himself said this very thing to a group of serious Bible believers. "You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life." John 5:39,40
The Bible is not my hope for change- the Person of Jesus is. My foundation for change is no longer to learn a bunch of Bible verses and truths and try hard to do them. This is precisely how the Pharisees lived. While this has the appearance of hard-core living for God, it is a work of self. Modern Evangelicalism is steeped in this kind of living. The Bible is not the Christian's foundation.
The Bible is the inspired Word of God. The Bible is crucial to our lives. More than ever we need it taught and understood. It is not, however, the Foundation. It is the Scriptures, in fact, that reveal the only True Foundation. Many will think that I am only splitting verbal hairs. I believe standing on the True Foundation is a matter of life and death. The Bible directs us to a Person- Jesus.
The law in Scripture reveals our need for Jesus. The bulk of scripture reveals to us God. As we learn to focus and abide in Him we will change. Paul reveals to us that, on the other side of death, drastic change will take place in us because we shall see God as He is. Change on this side of death happens the same way. When we know Him we will be changed into His likeness. Change does not take place in us because we focus on trying to make changes in ourselves.
Christianity is not merely a life lived according to principles. It is a life dependent on the person of Christ. Jesus, through the Spirit, actually leads, works and motivates the members of His Body. For the Body to grow and to enjoy health each member must learn what it means to abide in Him
I can not over emphasize the significance of this Foundation. This life "in" Christ is the rock that we must build our personal lives and the life of the Church on. At the core of our flesh is the well-entrenched notion that "if it is going to be- it is up to me". Our autopilot is always set to do it ourselves. Paul said it this way to the Galatians, "You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" The Galatians were not doing bad things; they were trying to do good things in their own efforts.
The result of this self-effort driven life is often exhaustion and apathy in the Church. It can also bear the fruit of pride and self-righteousness. We may wonder where all the joy went. We may wonder why it is so difficult to get people to minister or volunteer. Often we can trace it back to the foundation. Was this the work of Christ or of us? Are we joining the Lord in the work He is doing in our community or have we set the agenda and the program? Have we subtlety placed the burden of holy living and effective ministry back on our shoulders?
The opposite results come from a life of dependence on Christ. We become extremely grateful for the gift of life and acceptance that Jesus has completed. Church is the place that we are reminded to go to Him. Even while convicted of sin, we leave the fellowship with our eyes on Him. He is our hope for change and we feel secure in His love for us. We can rest in the fact that Jesus will build His Church.
The Apostle Paul was consumed with this foundation in Christ. In Philippians chapter three he contrasts the "for God" life lived in confidence in the flesh with that of the one who glories in Christ Jesus. Paul formerly used religion as a way to bolster his self-foundation and as a way to display his own strength. Upon meeting the Lord on the road to Damascus, his whole focused changed. He now wanted to know the Lord in a real and personal way. He wanted to be "found in Him". His identity was no longer based on himself and his work, but on the person and work of Christ. He also wanted to experience the kind of power that Jesus experienced from God when He was resurrected. Paul later wrote that he gloried in his weakness because when he was weak his was dependent and when he was dependent then he experienced the strength of Christ. Paul had a new Foundation.
This dependence on Christ is not just a mystical experience. We are to be grounded in the truth of the Scriptures and to meditate on them regularly. It is the study of the scriptures that in fact point us to this life in Christ. We need to make choices and we will make plans. In the midst of decisions and plans we are listening, teachable and pliable. We are aware that God is working among us.
An example of this dependence comes to my mind from my time as a staff pastor at Church of the Open Door. The elders decided to discontinue a midweek church meeting because it seemed ineffective and poorly attended. It was a difficult decision for some because this meeting was a long-standing tradition. After several months of no midweek meetings the elders believed that God wanted them to begin a more intentional program of equipping the members for ministry. We decided to call this our "Training Center". It was an opportunity for people to share their ideas, connect with similar hearts, plan and form ministries or look for new ministry ideas. This was a large church of about 2,000 Sunday morning attendees (Now 6-7,000). We held this "Training Center" on the same night the previous mid-week meeting had met. The first night 900 people showed up! We concluded that God wanted a "Training Center". I believe that this "Training Center" still continues to meet weekly. Many ministries have been equipped, encouraged and started.
Another example of this dependence comes from my own ministry experience. My wife and I had just begun attending Open Door. I had seriously studied the Bible for years, but the depth of this pastor's teaching was amazing to me. I was attending St. Paul Bible College and I needed to do an internship. To my astonishment the elders at Open Door immediately took me on as a pastoral intern. When I asked the senior pastor what I should do as an intern, he told me to do what was in my heart. I wanted to share the Pastor's sermons with people outside the Church. I explored the possibility of starting a local radio program featuring Dave Johnson's teaching. God put everything together, including the finances, and today "Growing In Grace" radio program is heard across this country and in several foreign countries. This all came about from a church environment that promoted listening and dependence on Christ.
This is not to say that all things are always wonderful and our lives will be full of success (from our perspective). Cathie and I moved to a small town eleven years ago to start a church. It did not happen. We have started several Bible Study groups that just fizzled. We have attended several local churches that were just not right for us. We have often felt lonely. In all of this I have no doubt of the presence and work of God in my life. He has used us to care for foster children and some of their families. One person who has helped us with our kids has come to know the Lord through seeing Christ in us. We have been meeting with a small group of former AA members who asked us to come and lead a Christian support group. These ministries were not my agenda, but they are from God. I believe that God is deepening my dependence on Him. There is nothing that irritates my flesh more than waiting and seeing little happen. I have had to wrestle between God's agenda and my own. Will I find my value in Christ or will I attempt to get it from "my" ministry? Will I rest in His timing or will I strive in my own agenda and strength. I am learning to depend and to rest in the work of Christ. I am learning what it means to have Christ as my Foundation.
The Solid Rock
William B. Bradbury
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
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
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