The Church of God, wrote Paul, is built on a foundation that includes the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ Himself as its chief cornerstone (Eph. 2:20).
Isaiah referred to that foundation, "Behold, I lay in Zion [the Church] for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation" (Isa. 28:16).
And notice II Timothy 2:19: "The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity."
Where do you stand in relationship to Christ and this foundation? What is your foundation?
The foundation in Christ Jesus Christ gave instruction to His followers about where a Christian is to stand and how to stand firm on the foundation. He gave an outline of what we ought to do, and said if you don't do these things, you're not on the foundation of the Stone. Instead you're on the foundation of sin. We find his outline in Matthew 5, 6 and 7.
Christ seated Himself before His disciples and a multitude that followed them. And the first thing He said was, "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:3). He starts with the basic of humility, of recognition of the rights of others. Then He continued in this concern for others, "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted" (verse 4).
How comforted? "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth" (verse 5). People who are willing to serve other people, to give, to do things for other people — they show what Christianity is all about. That's the way our foundation works. That's what Jesus Christ is: He is love. These things are the principles of love.
"Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled" (verse 6). If you have ever fasted for several days you know what kind of hungering and thirsting He means.
I hope I can always hunger and thirst after God's Word in such a way that nobody is going to change my mind and take me away from the foundation upon which Jesus Christ has placed me. He proceeds to talk about the merciful, about the pure in heart. Let's ask ourselves repeatedly, how merciful are we? How pure in heart? These are the principles He taught, and He concluded by saying that a man who heard His sayings and did them could be likened to a man who built his house upon a rock. We will see the meaning of this later in the conclusion.
To be a peacemaker (verse 9) is a part of the plan God laid out, a part of being a loving person of service to others.
And when we suffer because we are doing what is right — if we suffer because of this way of life that we are following for God's and Christ's sake — we are going to be rewarded. "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (verse 10). God said that we are going to suffer. And God said we are going to be persecuted.
Verse 11: "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake." You must be sure that your conduct and your behavior is based so closely upon the foundation that no matter what happens in the world and no matter what the persecutions may be, your foundation remains, that you're standing upon Christ. "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you" (verse 12).
The magnification of the law Continuing in verse 13: "Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour [if it has lost that taste that it gives to the food], wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under the foot of men." We can't afford, brethren, to lose the "saltiness" of God's way.
He said, to you brethren and all of your brethren around this world, "Ye are the light of the world" (verse 14). Your way of life, your godliness, are to be seen and known to the world as a witness of God to them.
"A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid." We can't go on being hidden. Verses 15-16: "Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Not that they just hear us say we are Christians, that we are God's Church, but that they see we are Christians by everything we do, by our conduct in the community, by our Christ-centered conduct wherever we are.
You must be sure that your conduct... is based so closely upon the foundation that no matter what... you're standing upon Christ. Verse 17: "Think not that! am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil." The way He did that was to give us the spirit of the law as well as the letter. And in magnifying the intent of the law, Christ explained: "Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (verse 28). This shows that the thought and intent of the heart is what God looks to.
"For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach [other people to do so], he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven "(verses 18-19).
In magnifying, not abolishing the law, Christ went so far as to say that "except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven" (verse 20). The Pharisees would talk about the law, but they didn't practice the things that they taught.
Then Jesus magnifies the law another way. "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
"Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee [if you have wronged anyone in any way]: Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift" (verses 21-24).
What He is telling us is that you can't come to Him with hate in your heart toward your brother. We have to learn how to forgive one another. Let's not destroy people. Let's try to help them.
And it's. not just a brother who's involved. Verse 25: "Agree with thine adversary quickly, while thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.
"Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence [get the matter settled], till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing."
Try to be Christian about it. Follow Matthew 18:15: "Go. [to your brother] and tell him his fault between thee and him alone." It doesn't say go tell or involve everybody else.
Back in chapter 5, He strengthens the law regarding marriage and divorce (verses 31:32) and swearing oaths (verses 33-37).
A proper attitude Then Christ talked about being sued at law and how to work things out. "If any man... take away thy coat, [be willing to] let him have thy cloak also" (verse 40).
In those days when Christ was speaking, the Roman Empire ruled. They were not living in a democracy. And a soldier could march into a home and demand that the occupants give him their bread, wine or whatever they had.
Or an official courier could compel someone to deliver mail to its destination or for a certain distance. If compelled to go one mile, be willing to go two, Christ instructs. It is a principle that you and I should follow today.
Give — that is, loan — to him who asks, legitimately needing to borrow from you (verse 42).
Verse 43, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy." That philosophy is very prominent today. Love your brother, but it is "all right to hate your enemy or hold a grudge, because maybe someone has wronged you. Christ said:
"Love your enemies.... pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven... For if ye love them which love you, what reward have you? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others?" (verses 44-47). That sort of thing doesn't "take much Christianity! But "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (verse 48),
Chapter 6 continues the teaching uninterruptedly. Don't give for the purpose of being seen by men. Do it privately, "otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven" (verse 1). Of course, some hypocrites sound a trumpet to attract attention whenever they do some good work, and of them Christ stated: "Verily I say unto you, They have [already] their reward" (verse 2).
Don't go around parading your Christianity. Just live it. "But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy father which see thin secret himself shall reward you openly" (verses 3-4). Some people pray to be seen. And I've seen, men get jealous because someone else was called on to lead the congregation in prayer.
Then Christ turned to that very subject, prayer. Here is the sample prayer, a pattern that you may follow.
Pray like this, He said, "Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name" (verse 9). He starts by addressing the Father and praising His name. Not talking about Himself. He next includes the Kingdom of God: "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (verse 10).
If you are founded upon Christ, you are going to be taking this kind of attitude in prayer. These are not the exact words you will use very prayer. But you will follow this basic outline and this basic approach, praying to the Father, in the name of Christ, and acknowledging that you want God's Kingdom to come to this earth quickly, speedily. You will pray that God's will — which can be summed up as love — will be done on this earth.
"...whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock." Then ask for your daily needs: protection, guidance, food. And don't forget a daily need for forgiveness. Verse 14-15: "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses [sins], neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Love is again a vital factor.
Finally, you'll close with what may be considered an expression of love toward God. "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever" (verse 13). You see, God is who counts — God's Kingdom and God's glory and God's power — those are the important things.
And He said, "Moreover when you fast"; He didn't say, "If you fast." Don't do it to be seen. It's a matter between you and God.
"The hypocrites [are] of a sad countenance [and] they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They [already] have their reward" (verse 16).
"Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (verses 20-21). What a key to keeping your heart wholly with God!
If your intent, your motive, what you think and feel; is evil, it's going to show up through your eyes (verses 22-23). Eventually your whole intent and motive will be evil. You can tell a tremendous amount about people by their eyes.
"No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (verse 24). Material things can't be your driving desire, because if they are, sooner or later your desire is going to consume you, and you are going to start compromising your convictions.
"Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?" God takes care of the fowls of the air, and the growth and the beauty of the lilies. How much more will He you (verses 25-30)!
Verse 32, "(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things." God knows before you ask Him.
"But seek ye first the kingdom of God [including God's government, His rule in your life] and his righteousness [Psalms 119:172 says all God's commandments are righteousness]; and all these things shall be added unto you" (verse 33).
The implementation of love In chapter 7 the implementation of love is stressed again. "Judge [condemn] not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured, to you again" (verses 1-2). That's another way of saying that whatever you want men to do to you is what you should do to them.
The famous example of the mote and the beam follows in verses 4-5: "how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam [maybe a 2 x 6!] is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite." The message is to clean up your own heart and life first, before you start meddling in other people's business.
"Ask, and it shall be given you" (verse 7). You can depend on God's love. This is an important basic. "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets" (verses 11-12).
That's how God is. That's how Christianity is.
Christ concludes all of this in verse 21: "Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." The man who performs the deed. Not the one who merely says he is a Christian, but whose life does not show it.
Verse 22: "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?" and done many things, casting out demons and whatever. And Christ is going to reply, "I never knew you: depart from me" (verse 23). Why did He say that? Because they were working iniquity, which is lawlessness.
"Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth [practices] them." What sayings? Those we have been studying from Matthew 5 through 7.
The importance of the foundation Christ concludes with a parable. "Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it, was founded upon a rock" (Matt. 7:24-25).
I Corinthians 10:4 says that Rock is Christ. "And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it" (Matt. 7:26-27).
Don't try to build a house upon the sand!