Resting On the Right Foundation – (Part 2) – Peter, the Rock

Consider Peter, one of Jesus’s disciples. He truly believed the man Jesus to be the Son of God: “So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘You do not want to go away also, do you?’ Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.’” (John 6:67-69). Continuing through the gospel of John would provide additional insight to Peter’s loyalty and belief in Jesus, that is until Jesus is arrested in John 18. It is at this point that Peter sees his Lord be taken away by mere men. Peter has seen a multitude of miracles and healings from Jesus, and knows from his own experiences that He is so much incredibly more than a man. This does not make sense. How can this immensely powerful person blessed by God be taken away by a few men? Peter begins to doubt. We can only imagine the mental anguish he undergoes while trying to process what is happening, but before he can reach a conclusion people challenge him and his loyalty to Christ. This is done at three separate occasions throughout John 18:15-27, and each time in the midst of Peter’s frustration, he denies any connection to Christ. The other three gospels include the fact that after Peter’s third denial he just broke down and wept bitterly. In the eyes of Peter, Jesus was more than a good teacher, or the Son of God, but He was also Peter’s best friend. Peter forgot all of this in a moment of confusion, and was swept up by fear and anxiety, which lead him to distance himself from Christ. The next time Peter had a chance to see Him was when He was beaten and lead out of the city to be nailed and hung on a cross. The crowds were hurling insults and mocking Jesus, some of whom were saying: “if He saved others, then let Him save Himself if this is indeed the Christ!” (Mark 15:31 & Luke 23:35). Peter would easily be left feeling doubtful that Jesus was who He said He was, and the moment that Jesus died was the same moment that Peter’s heart and hope were crushed. He undoubtedly left that scene as a broken man. He had heard Jesus’s words, but because he did not believe them, Peter was left homeless and humiliated.

As we all know this is not the end of the story. Jesus returns to life in the flesh as He was resurrected three days after His death on the cross, and He visits Peter (along with over 500 other people). Along with Christ’s resurrection, so Peter is renewed with life and zeal for his Lord and friend. Everything he thought and believed in his moments of doubt were instantly wiped away at seeing the resurrected Christ, and all that remained was Peter’s faith in Jesus. He recollected himself, and after Christ ascended to heaven Peter was immensely bold with his faith. He did not waiver again on the fact that He knew and loved Jesus. This became evident to all who came into contact with Peter:

“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health. He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.’
Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply.” (Acts 4:8-14)

Peter repositioned himself and his life, and he made his foundation to be the words of Jesus Christ. He was solid, and no matter what storm hit him he remained standing strong in his faith. He truly lived up to the words of Jesus when He told Peter: “I also say to you that you are Peter (literally translated “rock”), and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18). Before Christ’s death, Peter had a belief as to what Jesus was to be as God. To see God arrested, tortured, and die does not fit any person’s belief or definition of any type of god. Peter had an impression as to who Christ should be, and that impression was put to death on the cross. Afterwards, when Jesus came back, Peter finally saw Him for who He truly is.

Our misconceptions of God were put to death with Christ, and the grace and truth of Christ was finally revealed to the world as He returned from the dead. Anyone who relies on the truth of the risen Christ is one who is “always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (2 Cor. 4:10). We have been given this truth, and…

“As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:14-16)

Children, despite being sweet and innocent, are the most easily tricked and manipulated to the wills and whims of others. Any reasonable company or corporation makes top priority in marketing towards children simply for that very reason. Or to take a more morbid look, the immense number of children brought into wars. They end up serving the needs of horrible leaders through various control tactics of fear, brainwashing, or just by simple lies. Children have the least amount of exposure in the world to know what is right and wrong, and they just do not have a solid footing on any sort of truth. It is truly tragic to see the manipulation and puppeteering of children happen in our world, but this can happen to any person on this planet that does not have a solid foundation in truth, or a firm grip on reality. Paul writes to Ephesus telling them to grow up and be mature, rational adults. That is, wise men who build their houses on the rocks. Those who take the truth given to them and use it to love and build up others. In building others up, there is a focus and direction, namely towards the one who gave us the truth in love in the first place, Jesus Christ.

Resting On the Right Foundation – (Part 1) – Finding Stability in Christ

There is a deep ambition within mankind to find peace. Practically every religion and philosophy revolves around this concept of acquiring peace (whether that be global peace, or inner peace). And we know as a result of finding peace there is also an understanding of our purpose and value. Nowadays we (the population of the modern western culture) are desperate to find peace. As a result of multiple failed attempts we instead try to fill our lives with temporal highs of happy feelings. Over-stimulators, workaholics, thrill-seekers, social junkies, the list goes on, but at the end of the day we are all looking for that hit of happiness to hold us over. We hope that one day we will accomplish this goal of finding peace that leads to joy, because if we are to be honest, then we want to find something worth fighting for that makes all of our pain and suffering seem insignificant in comparison. Let us be real for a second: if our lives are destined to be more trouble than they are worth, then we have no practical reason to keep fighting. To rephrase this: if our lives are just pointless struggles without resolve, then we should just die and be done with it all. This is not a foreign concept, as we do this with animals (ie: “putting them out of their misery”), and continue to have controversy over euthanasia with humans. This is our reality, and it cannot be ignored. To ignore it is to go back to being a happy-druggie until the day we die. If we want to truly live, then we have to be honest with ourselves and give it our all in finding a reason, a foundation, to live on.

Any good foundation must be stable, but what is stability? If it has not been made clear by the title, my aim is to point the topic to Christ, and this parable of His is a great start in His direction:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27)

First off, the concept of a house is a person’s main hold of safety and security. Much careful consideration is put into specifically where to live. It takes time to find, negotiate, and build a home. It costs a significant amount of money to purchase the land, gather supplies, and hire professionals to build or at the very least ensure the current status of the structure is livable. It includes a lot of hard labor from start to finish. A person just cannot wake up one morning, decide they want to move, and have completely moved into their new house by the end of that same day. To have a home is to have a place where we belong, and to be protected from the harshness of the world. Without a home, then where do we belong? If we stay at another’s abode, then we are subject to their authority (like a father saying to his children “if you’re under my roof, then you’re under my rules”). It is not our own, and we would be wrong to try and establish authority in someone else’s house. Regardless, everyone needs a place to stay, because without decent shelter there is nothing to protect a person from the harsh conditions of the environment and hostile animals or people.

Second, a house is only as strong as the strength of its foundation. This parable takes great effort to distinctively describe the differences between the two men’s decisions of the foundation for their homes. The man described as wise was the one who built his house on the rock, and as a result was able to keep his house. The man described as foolish was the one who built his house in the sand, and as a result lost everything. Jesus does not go into any other detail of the differences between the two men’s houses, and the implication is that these two men could have had exactly identical homes. Jesus even describes the testing of each house as exactly the same, so much so that both men’s homes could have been in the same storm. The entire point of this parable is to emphasize the crucial need for a strong foundation. In the parable it is a foundation for a home, but the connection Jesus makes is that “everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice” are the wise men building on solid, stable rock, whereas “everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice” are the foolish men building in the shifty, unstable sand.

The words of Jesus, when put into practice, is the solid foundation for a stable life. But it is reasonable to ask: “why trust the words of a single man who lived two thousand years ago? He lived in an ancient time in a foreign culture in a distant land. Why are my ideas and beliefs not good enough? What about every single human being between the time of Jesus and today? Has nobody else provided foundational words to live by?” Consider Peter (in part 2), who had to answer these kinds of questions in the midst of the most significant turn of events in all of human history.

Third, consider the storm that beat against both houses. Sure, difficult times happen and it makes us reevaluate our priorities in life, and it is a great factor of the storm, but there is another element to consider. Anyone who possesses the truth is a part of the storm. The truth is a powerful tool, and God’s word of truth is even referred to as a weapon to cut through lies and false speculations:

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

The words of truth given by God are able to tear down and destroy fortresses, or in another context, homes built on false ideals. However it is better to tear down lies by speaking the truth in love rather than have those lies be exposed and torn apart by the ferocity of the world and all things hostile within the world. To speak the truth in love in this same context would be to demonstrate the flimsy structure of another’s house by simply knocking it over, then inviting them to come and live under our own roof and as a result be involved in our own lives. It would be unnecessarily cruel to destroy someone’s house, and then leave them out in the cold to fend for themselves. Speaking the truth in love does not merely destroy lies and deceit in a person’s life, but also it restores the person to a healthy security that is newly discovered on what is a shared foundation. We help them rebuild on the solid rock so that they too can be safe and secure in the midst of the world’s fiercest storms.

In conclusion, to learn about the truth found in Christ and His words is to build a foundation for your life on solid rock. God is not shaken or tossed around, but rather “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8). Paul describes while in prison how it is he is able to continue living: “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:12-13). Paul found peace, and he found it in Jesus Christ. There is not a person on this planet who is unable to acquire this same peace, but all it requires is simply surrendering to Christ and being honest with Him that we need Him in our lives, because there is just no other way we can attain an everlasting peace.