The subject of my message today is …
The Right Foundation
And I have taken as my text the words of Jesus in Luke 14:v28
“ For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?”
At the east end of Edinburgh’s famous “Princess Street” there is a building, well I use the term loosely, as it is only the facade of a building which was begun but never completed and known locally as “Edinburgh’s Folly.” Obviously in a by-gone day, a developer planned to erect a great and ornate structure in that prime location, but had not first counted the cost of such a venture, and was thus unable to complete it. If you and I are going to build a house there are important FIRST QUESTIONS that we will need to ask. For instance, “What colour will I paint the front door?” It’s an important question, but shouldn’t be the first! “Will I hang a Chandelier in the Hallway?” Again a good question, but not amongst the first. “Should I install a phone line in every bedroom?” Another important question, but not the first!
If you are going to build a house, amongst the very first questions you must ask yourself, is “how much will it cost, and can I afford to build it?” Jesus asks a question about just such a man who intending to build a tower does not first sit down to count the cost? Now my dear friends, there is another cost which you and I must consider, a much more important cost than the cost of any building project, it is the cost of losing your soul, the cost of being lost for all eternity. The human soul is the most valuable thing we possess. If we are to better understand its value we must first consider the price that Jesus paid for our souls redemption. Gods purchase price for your Soul and mine, has already been paid by the blood of Jesus on the cross at Calvary over 2000 years ago. If we are to lay the Foundation for the Christian life, to find, follow and finish with Christ who has paid that high price for us, then before we can do it, there are some important FIRST questions which we need to ask.
There are those contemplating becoming a Christian, and following Christ who ask the wrong questions at first, and then miss the important questions, and instead of laying a foundation for life, they lay only the foundation for a folly, just like the one in Edinburgh! They look foolish both to the world and to the Angels of Heaven.
The Church likewise has over the centuries, sought to find answers to the perplexing issues that divide it. Yet they have like so many believers before them began by asking the wrong FIRST questions. They ask things like, how can we find a theological formula and focus on which we can all agree? Or they ask, what can we offer to each other to enhance and enrich our shared experiences. These are good questions, but they are not the FIRST question, and what we should be asking and need to ask is “What is the Church?” and “What is a Christian?”
For you personally, wanting to become a Christian, you need not ask at this point, which Church should I join, which translation of the Bible should I read from, which missionary enterprises should I back and support? These are good and important questions, but not the FIRST questions.
So then, in the moments left to me today, let us look at the most important FIRST QUESTIONS we can all ask.
– What is Life?
– What is Death?
– What is Salvation?
– What is a Christian?
– Am I a Christian?
These five questions are I believe among the most important
questions that you will ever ask, and ever answer! They will provide the Foundation Stones for the future, and are the basis on which we build, both for Time and for Eternity.
It is the apostle James who asks this first question of us, WHAT IS LIFE, and gives us a disturbing yet honest answer. In James 4.14, he responds by saying that “life is even a vapour, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away” We know of course that there are various forms of life present in our world. There is plant life; you may crush and kill the leaves of the shrub, but it will not cry out in pain, for it does not have world conscious life. There is animal life; the monkeys at the Zoo can imitate a lot of folks I know, and look almost human, but I have never seen them get down on their knees to pray. They and other animals have a degree of intelligence, but they do not possess the skill and ability of their keepers. That brings me to Human life; and we have wise, intelligent, moral, upright, decent and religious human life. There’s a lot of it about! But there is yet another kind of life, what the Bible calls, Spiritual life! This is not mere religion, but this is relationship life, the God kind of life, that results from a relationship with Jesus. John, the apostle reminds us that “he that has the Son, (of God) has life, he that has not the son, has not life” (1 John 5:v12)
Jesus himself said that “he had come that we might have and enjoy life to the full ‘till it overflows” (John 10.10 amp) This abundant life here on earth is the normal life for the Christian, but as James reminds us, even that, is like a vapour appearing only for a little while, and the Psalmist reconed that we average about 70 years, or if stronger, 80 years. (Psalm 90:10) and are soon gone. So we must conclude that in answer to the question WHAT IS LIFE, the answer should read “brief”, and the Hymn writer says, “Life at best is very brief, like the falling of a leaf.”
This then brings us to the second question, WHAT IS DEATH?
Obviously we know that death comes after life, or when our life is over, when the race is run, when the journey is ended, when the battle is done! But what is it to die? What is death? I read at times with amusement, yet with sorrow, the ideas put forward in our newspaper obituaries, after the death of loved ones. Phrases like, “just gone to bed” just gone into another room”, “just sleeping”, “gone to my rest”, “gone to seed“, “gone but not forgotten”, – all of which portray personal feelings but have little if anything to do with reality.
Death is the passing of the soul, from the Body. The body is dependent on the soul, not as most assume on blood for life. When someone dies, it is not that they have run out of blood, or that their blood stopped flowing through the veins, (which it will) but without the soul, the body has no function. The Bible teaches us that we are essentially a Soul. It says: “God breathed the breath of life into the body that he created, and man became a living soul.” Gen 2:v7. We regularly use the term, “he was a good soul, a kindly soul, a decent soul, a friendly soul…. and so on” What we are talking about is the person, not the body, not only what we could see, but what we couldn’t see, – the entire person. God gave us a Body so that we could have contact on earth with one another, he also gave us a Spirit, so that we could have contact in Heaven, with him! So then we are all Spirit, Soul and Body, and the soul houses the intellect and the understanding, it houses the mind, the emotions, and it is the part of us that is eternal, – the soul will never die!
When the God appointed time comes for the soul to leave the body, at that moment the body dies, and death is the result, the evidence, left behind in the casket or coffin. The person, the soul we knew, is not in the coffin, it is only their body, and it is the body that we bury or cremate, not the person! But there is another kind of death spoken off in the Bible, a Spiritual death, where the Soul is separated from God for all eternity. When our first parents took of the forbidden fruit, in Genesis 3, they died! Oh they did not die physically, but they died spiritually, they were separated from God, as he put them out of the Garden of Eden, and placed fiery angels to guard the way to the tree of life.
Spiritual death has always meant separation from God, and it is our sin that bring us that separation. If we die in our sin, we shall of course be physically dead, but spiritually alive, yet separated from good and God for all eternity. What a tragedy! How will you die? Will you die in your sin, or will you die having been forgiven? The choice is yours, it always will be yours, for God does not send any to hell, if they end up in hell,
it will be because they neglected or rejected the Saviour.
This leads me to the third question, WHAT IS SALVATION?
In Johns Gospel in Chapter 3, a Rabbi or Ruler of the Jews named Nicodemus came to Jesus one night, clearly concerned about his eternal well-being. Jesus tells him that in order to see and to enter into the kingdom of God he must be “born again” John 3.v3. Salvation is simply being born again. Now what does it mean to be born again? Nicodemus had the same question, how is it possible to enter again into the womb and be born again? Jesus was quick to enlighten the man, and told him that being born again, was not a matter of entering the womb, but entering into a relationship, being born into another family, Gods family. Jesus pointed out that He had come to die, to shed his blood and pay the price which Divine justice demanded on account of sin, and that by believing in him (John 3.16) by accepting him as sin-bearer, or Saviour, one would enter into an eternal relationship, and everlasting life.
Being willing to repent of sin, and place it all at the feet of Jesus, pleading his forgiveness, would bring the lost soul, the stranger, into a found state and into a family state, the family of God. You were born into your own family, and carry your family name, but until you have been born again into Gods family, you will never carry His name, and never share in His glory or his home! For instance: You can’t just walk in on our family Christmas and expect there to be a place laid for you at our table, expect to enjoy the turkey dinner and receive a present. But if you are a family member, like my Brother or Sister – you may do just that! Salvation is not about religion, but about relationship. Nicodemus was a religious, a very religious man, but it was no use to him when he was seeking the Kingdom of God. Only those born of God, born into the family of God, born into the title, born into the inheritance, born into the flock, – will enter into the fold.
This brings us to the fourth question WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN?
There are many mistaken conceptions being bandied about today, both within and without the Church about what it is to be a Christian. Many believe that going to Church makes them a Christian, while others hold that being born into a Christian home and having a Christian name makes them Christian. Still others believe that saying prayers, going on pilgrimage, being penitent and pious make them right with God and candidates for grace and favour. There are those who attend Church or Chapel regularly, pay great sums of money into the coffers, and wholeheartedly support the efforts of the Church, the vision of the Church and the Mission of the Church, but who have never personally, experientially trusted in Jesus for themselves, and rely on the baptismal confessions of parents or god-parents for their eternal well-being! Others are relying on Church office, title or position within the Church to give them a favourable standing before a Holy and Righteous Judge.
If we could become a Christian by any of these self efforts, then it makes the cross of Calvary and the suffering of Christ, –
a nonsense. It is not by “works of righteousness which we
have done, but according to his mercy he saved us” Being a Christian, (becoming a Christian) is something personal, it is something that involves an act of your free will. God will not force you into the kingdom, but he does invite you. God will not force you to love him, but he does want your love, and longs to fellowship with you, and minister to you, and indwell you in the person and power of the Holy Spirit. If you will simply invite him to come into your life, to forgive you of your sins, to indwell you by His Spirit, then he will, and you will be born again today. A Christian you are when you possess his forgiveness, and you can know that forgiveness right now, and be sure of it, for time and for eternity.
The Hymn writer could say,
“My sin, Oh the bliss of this glorious thought, that my sin not in part, but the whole, is nailed to his cross and I bear it no more, bless the Lord, bless the Lord Oh my Soul.”
What a blessing to know with assurance that all my sin, past present and future has been nailed to him, taken by him, borne by him, and its penalty paid for, by him. Hallelujah!
This leads me to a final question which you need to ask yourself,
AM I A CHRISTIAN?
I cannot answer that for you, you alone, know the answer. It is as if I hear some of you respond, with answers that say “I hope so”, “I would like to think so”, or ”I’m not sure”.
Uncertainty of the operation of the Holy Spirit in granting you repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ, is almost certainly an indication that as yet, you are not a Christian. But I have good news for you, for you can become a Christian today. What had to be done, has been done, – as one poet says:
“It is not try but trust, it is not do, but done, our God has wrought for us great victory through his Son”
I heard a preacher once testify that he was like a drowning man,
drowning in the sea of despair, death and damnation, and Jesus came and pulled him out. It’s a fine illustration, but it only embodies a half truth. Jesus does not rescue us from drowning and death, Jesus saw us condemned to drown, condemned to death, and jumped into the water to drown and die for us, so that we could walk away free, and saved! Jesus became our Substitute!
And so my dear friends, these five questions are amongst the FIRST QUESTIONS every soul needs to ask before they can begin to build for eternity. You will never resolve your eternal destiny when you get there, you must do it now, you must prepare now, today you must lay the foundation. Many I believe are putting off eternal issues until another day, until some more convenient time. But eternity is only one heartbeat away from time. Some day that pump, that muscle that pumps the blood around your body will stop, and your soul will move from your body into eternity and you body will have fulfilled its purpose in housing the soul for time, for life.
May I ask you another question, … Where will your soul be then? Will you, like me be united with Christ for ever, or will you be separated from him for ever, the choice is entirely yours. (yet I can’t bear to think of you as lost) God loves you, and it is his love that allows me to come into your home, your living room, your hospital ward or your car at this moment to bring you this challenge. I don’t know how much of life is left to you, or to me, we may both be in eternity before the day is out? I am not perfect, I am not better than you, I am not more worthy than you, for God has no favourites. Yet I have something right now that you don’t have? I have this life eternal, this God life within me, and I have no doubt whatever that when my soul passes away from this scene of time, it will be immediately present with the Lord Jesus and I can’t wait!
I am not being presumptuous when I say that, I am
simply taking God at his word, and standing on his promise. Speaking of laying the foundation for eternity the apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 3:v11 “For other foundation can no one lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” Start today and build your life on the rock that is the Lord Jesus. In the Gospel we have the story of what is generally accepted as the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders. These two built a house, a grand house, a suitable house, a home to live in, – one built on the firm foundation of Rock, and the house stood for generations, while the other, maybe he wanted a sea view, but his house, he built it on the sands. When the winds came the sands shifted, when the rain fell the sands were washed away and that house fell to ruin, and we read; – “great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:27. On what are you placing your hopes for eternity? Are you on solid ground, are you built on the eternal promises of the Word of God, or are you some day going to perish in the sinking sands of your own foolish choices?
Now this final word.
This Sermon began with a question, “who would start to build without first counting the cost?” and I end it as I began, with another question, “Have you counted the cost, if your Soul should be lost … have you counted that cost?”
God Bless You, Amen