In the Sermon on the Mount, given on a grassy hillside by the Master Himself to a great crowd of fascinated listeners, are to be found timeless, startling truths that stand out in sharp contrast to the meaningless platitudes, social gospel and popular psychology so common in today's pulpits. Many of the listeners at this huge gathering, in a picnic-like setting above the Sea of Galilee, had traveled long miles on foot just to be in the Master's presence and feed their famished souls with His blessed teaching. How the meaning has been lost--the simplicity of true worship--that lively, continuous, intimate experience encompassing the whole of our lives, which honors God and uplifts the worshiper. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus contrasts this experience with the curse of "weekend Christianity", as common in His day as it is in ours.

In this religious bondage the Deity whom we have ignored, neglected or out right offended all week, is to be appeased by an hour-long gathering filled with meaningless exhortations and murmured "amens", reverent kneeling, the bowing of heads and folding of hands. Then when the sermonizing and singing are done, we file out, dressed in our weekend best, shaking hands and feeling we have made up for a week of indifference. It is true that some leave with a sort of good feeling about God or themselves and others feel they have gotten some good religious information, but most just feel they have survived another weekly ordeal. Then these professed "children of God" head for their cars and back to the "reality of life" with its trial and error, the trial of trying again and again with no assurance of success. As the hymn puts it, "...We have not served Thee as we ought, alas the duties left undone, the work with little fervor wrought, the battles lost or scarcely won...". Of such false worship and false worshipers, the Lord says, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers"--you doers of failure.

Time is slipping quickly by on that quiet hillside of long ago, and Christ must summarize and make His final appeal before the crowd becomes restless and anxious to turn toward home. Drawing attention to some of the dwellings in sight, He illustrates the result of living according to the things He has just taught. "I will show you what he is like who comes to me, hears my words and puts them into practice," He says, pointing to a grand home high on a rocky steep. "He is like a wise man building a house, who digs down deep and lays his foundation on a rock. Rain comes with strong winds, washes fill to flood proportions and the value of his house is displayed. This house, built by a wise owner, though struck by a torrent does not fall; nor can it be shaken, because it has its foundation on a rock."

Now He calls their attention to another house, perhaps more impressive and imposing than the first, but situated in a lush garden-like lowland. "The same flood strikes this house," He tells them. "The current is strong and there is a great crash as the house collapses in total destruction." Silence reigns. The discourse is ended. Convicted by the force of Jesus' illustration, Peter, John and Judas had cause to examine their own character foundations closely to find out what they had been building upon. Each of these disciples wanted a solid character that would stand up to the tests and trials to come and each had an equal opportunity to obtain it. John and Peter chose, that very day, a new building site and began moving their construction materials to higher ground, separating the inferior (wood, hay and stubble) from the valuable (gold, silver and precious stones). Judas also intended to do this very work and began to plan the best way to go about it while waiting for a favorable opportunity to begin. Peter and John secured the invaluable services of the great Master Builder, while Judas, who intended to do the same, delayed paying the initial fee of fully yielding his heart and life to the Builder's complete control.

Of the two who actually began their building project, John learned more readily to distrust himself and let the Builder take charge; hence his foundation was laid. Peter, very involved in getting his materials to the new site on higher ground, believed the Builder's role was mainly that of a counselor who would show him what to do, and Himself, help out only in a crisis. He never did get around to signing a contract giving the Builder complete control till he nearly ruined his project altogether the night a certain cock crowed three times. Though honest in his self-expectations, he learned the Builder knew him better than he knew himself. Now, in his new role of workman with God instead of master builder, Peter prospered. His Lord showed him how to build for eternity and Peter etched each lesson indelibly in his mind, putting all he learned into practice, never returning to his old method. He learned that this Builder did not just issue instructions and drop by occasionally, but was always present as the work progressed. Peter was one of those who discovered that Jesus' stories were not entertaining sermons, but instructions in principles--principles that, taken to heart and into the life, transform the willing into the very image of God.

Judas, who had put Jesus' counsel up on the shelf of good intentions, never did yield his life to the Master Builder. It all seemed important, but not quite important enough to do it. Judas saw what needed to be done. He knew the deformities of his character as well as any of the disciples. He watched the others doing what Jesus told them to do and saw His power change them, but he viewed all this the way people watch TV--as a passive observer. He postponed life, real life, just until tomorrow--a vague, misty tomorrow which never came.

Every prompting to right neglected and left for later opens a door to doubt. Judas went from one degree of unbelief to the next till his character was firmly fixed in the wrong path. Wisdom from above, which guides into all truth, could have been his, but he neglected the counsel of God and the evil he cherished gained an overpowering influence on him, fashioning him body and soul a slave to sin. "Practice makes perfect", and Judas practiced his cherished evil. Day by day it became easier, till his sins were finally perfected, and the selfish, wicked heart he had tried to hide was revealed to all.

"After God has shown individuals their sins and given them grace to overcome, and His Spirit has been long striving with them, He will not work a miracle to prevent the sure result of resisting that Spirit and persisting in a wrong course. There is a boundary to His grace and mercy; when this boundary is passed, the aid of His Spirit, so wickedly refused and insulted, is withdrawn, and the soul is given over to the worst of tyrants,-- the power of a perverted will. If we are closely connected with sacred things and yet do not realize their importance, the heart will become so hard that the most earnest appeals will not move it to contrition. We must cherish every ray of light. We must work intelligently to form our characters after the Divine model, continually striving, with all the powers God has given us, to reach the high standard set before us in His word." (Ellen G. White).

As with individuals so it is with groups. The same principles apply. Peter and Judas can accurately portray the growth and devotion, or danger and destruction, that become the experience and history of churches. Whether good or bad, building a character and a church are the only real, lasting work of life. And it is impossible to build two characters or churches. Either the edifice is reared on Christ or built on sandy self. But self cannot stand before the onslaught of Satan, for the tempter is too powerful. Christ alone is the Rock impervious to all the assaults of the enemy.

When you take up the Scriptures, do not just read, but heed, like John and Peter. Let conviction grip your heart and act upon it. He gives the power to carry out those convictions, for He is delighted and greatly honored to watch you take hold of what He has given. You too, as His disciples of old, will know the joy of watching your eternal edifice rise strong, sure and beautiful in the hands of the Master Builder. Read the Bible, not for entertainment or information, but for His sake who has loved you with an everlasting love. And when you find a promise in His Word, know that it is already yours as a gift of His love. Take it, unwrap it, open it, enjoy it, use it! And know that it is yours forever. Your faith and love will grow from victory to victory and His joy in you will be full. Come up and be separate and become part of "The Great Rock"--that "Stone cut out without hands".

Now is always the appropriate time with Him. Commitment left for tomorrow is no commitment at all. As the past is forever beyond our reach, so with tomorrow. The future can be altered and the past covered only as we let God change our present. As we let Him, now, this moment, rivet us to His wonderful Rock and build on that foundation, we will find our past cleansed of its accumulated guilt, and even the sordid experiences of our former lives He will use to His glory. Not only is the evil of the past cleansed, but the nightmare ahead that we had under construction is likewise transformed into a glorious future. "For I know the plans I have for you, plans for your welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." (Jeremiah 29:11).

There are many splendid locations still available on "The Great Rock", that growing Stone, just right for the construction of your fabulous abiding place. It is now or never--your chance of a lifetime. And the choices are life or death.Sell off your field of river-edge sand and move to the "Solid Rock Estates"--it is filling the whole earth--where your investment is one hundred percent assured and satisfaction is guaranteed.

"Let no professed Christian take counsel of his own imperfections and say that it is impossible for a Christian to live a sinless life. It is impossible for a true Christian, one who has full faith, to live any other kind of life." Taken from The Glad Tidings, by E. J. Waggoner.


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