August 18, 2009 Matt Pennock

Building on a Solid Rock

You have not had to approach things which your senses could experience as they did in the old days – flaming fire, black darkness, rushing wind and out of it a trumpet-blast, a voice speaking human words. So terrible was that voice that those who heard it begged and prayed that it might stop speaking, for what it had already commanded was more than they could bear – ‘And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or thrust through with an arrow’. So fearful was the spectacle that Moses cried out, ‘I am exceedingly afraid and trembling’.

No, you have been allowed to approach the true Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have drawn near to the countless angelic army, the great assembly of Heaven and the Church of the first-born whose names are written above. You have drawn near to God, the judge of all, to the souls of good men made perfect, and to Jesus, mediator of a new agreement, to the cleansing of blood which tells a better story than the age-old sacrifice of Abel.

So be sure you do not refuse to hear the voice of God! For if they who refused to hear those who spoke to them on earth did not escape, how little chance of escape is there for us if we refuse to hear the one who speaks from Heaven. Then his voice shook the earth, but now he promises:’Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven’.

This means that in this final “shaking” all that is impermanent will be removed, that is, everything that is merely “made”, and only the unshakeable things will remain. Since then we have been given a kingdom that is “unshakeable”, let us serve God with thankfulness in the ways which please him, but always with reverence and holy fear. For it is perfectly true that our ‘God is a burning fire’. Hebrews 12:18-29

In a day when Christians are dividing themselves off from one another needlessly over whether we need to be “liberal” or “conservative” followers I would like to proclaim this: Christianity is neither liberal nor conservative. It is eternal.

There are so many dualisms in the bible to explain life: sin and righteousness, good and evil, holy and unholy, alive and dead, etc. Even the Church itself is a “dualism”. The bible likens it to a building and a foundation. When we think about the building and growth of God’s church we normally think in terms of one universal way, and many spend so much precious time and energy trying to find that one way. When Jesus spoke of the Way he assuredly proclaimed that there was only one way to righteousness and reconciliation with God, and that it was through him alone. This is our foundation.

When it comes to building the Church upon this foundation however, we find that there is no one universal way and that there has never been one universal way. Jesus taught, more or less, that it would be like building a house on a firm foundation or a solid rock.

Looking through history since Jesus spoke those words, we see that this solid rock has indeed remained throughout the ages of the Church and has never changed. It continues in presence no matter what. If it didn’t, all of us today would be hopeless. We can also observe another intriguing fact: the “houses” built upon this solid rock have constantly…changed. There have been house congregations, basillicas, convents, monastaries, cathedrals, etc. Today we have garage and pub congregations, missional communities, parachurch organizations, world conferences, and missions organizations. They are all radically different in form, yet have one thing in common: they are built on that same unchanging, eternal, solid rock.  At the same time Church history is fraught with corruption and there are plenty of examples of all these same forms built on sand. This goes to show that unless we recognize the “dualism” of Church and look deeper to the foundations we will not be able to tell which ones are the good trees, the abiding houses, the strong refuges. In an age where liberalism is coming to mean that there should be nothing solid and where conservativism is coming to mean that nothing should change, we need to be on guard to know that the way of Jesus transcends these. There’s no limit to what our houses can look like, but whatever color, shape, or form they may be, they must always be built on the eternal, unchanging solid rock of God’s message to us for the time is coming when every work and every word will be tested for its foundational strength.

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