Read 1 Corinthians 3
If I am going to build a house, I probably won’t start with the roof or the sides of the house or the garage. Even if I am assembling a prefabricated house, everything begins with the foundation.
In sports, coaches don’t begin with the fancy plays. They begin with fundamentals. They best designed offense in football isn’t of much use if the players are weak, slow, and can’t block.
The best designed full court press won’t pay dividends if the players get winded and can’t pass and dribble when they get a turn over.
Everything begins with the basics. Everything begins with the foundation.
There is no other foundation save that of Jesus Christ.
Everything that we are and that we believe and that we do proceeds from that foundation.
Some of us had our foundation laid years ago, others perhaps more recently. But the question is, “What have we built upon it?”
That is to say, “How have we responded to God’s love that we know in Jesus Christ?”
Jesus Christ is the foundation. We have life, abundant life, and eternal life in him. We are saved from sin and death in Christ. Believing on the name of Jesus has done the things that we could not do for our own salvation and hope. We know this so well in song.
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
While we all have different gifts and talents and abilities; we all build upon this common foundation.
The foundation does not need to be rebuild. The foundation is Christ and it is rock solid.
But what have we built upon it?
Marines have a modern day expression: Two hundred and some year’s worth of tradition, one year of experience. That is because every year key people change jobs. It makes for considerable breadth of experience, but just as someone was reaching the pinnacle of performance in their assignment, they are promoted or transferred.
Sometimes it seems that way in our congregations. People are led to serve in different areas and produce good fruit for the body of Christ, but some move away. Some move on to do other things. Some just retire from being God’s love in action.
Sometimes in our individual lives it seems like we are always rebuilding upon this foundation of life in Christ Jesus.
It seems that we only get a few rows of bricks laid when something comes along and sets us back. Perhaps we build like crazy at first then realize that we built a straw house and wonder why it doesn’t seem to hold up to adversity.
Sometimes it seems that our biblical study and learning tastes like baby food.
I don’t know how I ever ate that stuff. Once you have eaten a ribeye steak or even an old fashioned hamburger, you couldn’t imagine nursing on a bottle or eating a jar of baby food.
Too often, however, that is the exact diet of modern day Christians. We study the words. We pray. We study the words. We pray. We feel that we should put the words into practice, but we back away instead.
James reminds us in his letter to the Jewish people scattered all over the world that faith without deeds is dead.
Faith without some corresponding action is nothing.
Our salvation is assured. We have life in Christ Jesus. That foundation won’t crumble.
But what will we build upon it?
What can we build upon it? Let’s look at 7 things that every follower of Jesus can do.
Make disciples. We are to share the gospel—the good news of life in Jesus Christ. We may not have a divinity degree but we know what grace is, and we know where it comes from.
If you read the second chapter of this letter on the way to the present reading, then you know that it does not take fancy words to bring people to Christ. The gospel and the Holy Spirit combined to do what is needed.
As we live in and grow in grace our hearts will desire that none perish and that all come to a saving knowledge of life in Jesus Christ.
We live in the middle of a hurting world. People are lost. They have heard of God. Most have a Bible. Most have read some of it. Many went to church services at some point in their lives but they are hurting today because they never made Jesus Lord in their lives.
Some may have the foundation of salvation but they have built nothing upon it and they don’t know abundant life. They are hurting and they don’t know why.
Some know but won’t admit it.
So what are we to do?
Bring them home. We build upon our foundation by bringing others home. Bring them to worship. Bring them to study. Bring them to offer themselves as a living sacrifice to holy God.
Bring them to purposeful life.
I have said it many times; there is no Sabbath to take in a life without purpose. There is no day to set aside to worship holy God or to rest from our labors when we are adrift in the world. There are so many around you who are adrift in the world.
Help them to become disciples. Call them home. Bring them home. Leave the 99 right where they are and go rescue just 1 this week.
It is a target rich environment. You won’t have to look very long to find someone who needs to be rescued.
Next we look at the Tithe as we build on this rock solid foundation. There’s that dirty T-word again. Preachers always want to talk about the tithe so they can get a raise.
Actually, most of the time that I talk about the tithe, it is to open the door to you so that you may receive the blessings of God. It is so that you can realize the promises that come with trusting God over our own understanding.
But this time, I want to focus on another part of the tithe. I want to consider the part that says we should tithe so that God’s house will be full.
What would happen if every Christian tithed—that is gave 10% of their income off the top to God? Not 5% after taxes or 8% designated for specific programs, but a full 10%.
What would happen if every Christian—not every person but every Christian—in our country tithed?
We would make the government irrelevant for the needs of every person—not just every Christian but every person—would be met and such help would be administered locally in each community where people knew each other and where help would come with love and not paperwork.
Some tithe less than the 10% but do so faithfully at the beginning of each week or each month, but something less is still something less. A 3% tithe should be a step to a 4% tithe and then a 5% tithe and so forth as if to build faithfully upon a solid foundation.
Think of it this way. If you were playing basketball and could only hit 3 out of 10 free throws in practice, what would you do?
You could be content to be a 30% free throw shooter, otherwise known as a bench warmer; or you could practice, and practice, and practice until you could hit 50% of your free throws.
Then what? You would practice and practice and practice some more. You would build upon what you had until you had something to be proud of—something that showed yourself to be what biblically we might call a workman approved.
And so too with the tithe. If we are going to build upon the foundation of life that we know in Christ, should we not build to equip the church to do the work of the church in the world.
Somewhere along the way many church bodies lost sight of this, and even though there may be beautiful brick and mortar buildings surrounded by large parking lots with cleanly marked spaces, they are building with straw instead of stone.
For the church is called out of the world to be set apart from the world to go back into the world with the gospel and to be God’s light and love in the world.
And we must provision and equip those who are sent.
When they are adults they will always have this foundation for their own lives. We build on our own foundation by making sure our children and grandchildren have Christ as their foundation.
Weekly, I remind people that sending their kids to the church building on Sundays is not bringing them up in the way they should go.
There is a big difference between “Follow me as I follow Christ” and “I’ll pick you up in 3 hours.”
How else can we build upon this rock solid foundation? We can live within our means. The Proverbs tell us that the borrower is slave to the lender. We must not be a slave to anyone. We belong to Christ alone.
His blood has set us free. Why would we sell ourselves into slavery?
Why would the people who are building upon the rock solid foundation of Christ use shabby materials such as debt?
Some may be ready to tune out about now because just about everyone has some debt. Some have a whole lot of debt.
Debt robs you of abundance in this life.
Debt is a straw house on a rock solid foundation. It will not stand the test.
We who follow Jesus are called to live within our means.
Some are thinking, I really prefer those messages that are more conceptual and don’t tell you practical things to do. That’s the problem with building on a foundation, you have to have some touch and feel sort of stones to lay on top of them if we want what we build to stand.
If you want to build on that foundation then here is something that we definitely know how to do: Feed the hungry.
We do this. We do it time and time and time again. Of course people are hungry day after day after day. We feed the hungry without judgment or qualification.
We feed them with more than a day’s portion. We bless hungry people with much food and remind them to come back if they run short of food again.
We tell them never to be ashamed for it would hurt us more to see people starving than it would for us to refill the food pantry.
We get this, most of us get this.
Every year I throw out about 100 pounds of food that is well beyond its expiration date. This year I threw away a can of something that came in for Thanksgiving baskets that was 9 years expired.
Most of what comes in is purchased for the hungry as if we were feeding our own families.
Many have built upon the foundation of Christ Jesus by feeding the hungry. We understand this. We get it.
This next one may not seem like it is made out of stone or brick, but it is as strong as steel.
Let us live as forgiven people!
What is past is past. When we confess our sins to God he is faithful and just to forgive us.
Our pardon is assured.
So why do we walk around hanging our heads? Why do we carry guilt and shame around with us? Does the world not have enough daily challenges for us that we must keep dragging yesterday’s troubles along with us?
Can any one of us add a single hour to our life by worry or guilt or shame?
We are a forgiven people. We are a free people. We must cast off anything that hinders us as we run our race of faith, and there is a lot of guilt and shame and worry among today’s Christians that needs to be discarded.
We can’t earn our way out of guilt and shame. We confess our miscues and joyfully accept God’s forgiveness.
Jesus Christ did not die a gruesome death and spill his blood as a sacrifice for us so we could walk around as if we were under a death sentence. That debt has been paid.
We are forgiven.
As we build on the foundation of salvation in Christ Jesus, let us do it as a forgiven people.
But if we really want to know if we are building with straw or stone, we might ask ourselves how are we doing with not only loving our neighbor but loving our enemies?
Can we truly turn the other cheek without feeling cheated by God?
More than the number of times that we came to worship and stayed awake, more than the times that we actually sang the words to the hymn, and even more and the times when we greeted or took up the offering or said a prayer; the times when we loved those who do not love us tell us if we are building with stone or brick.
For even the pagans know to love those who love them. But we are a people set apart from the world. We are called to love those who do not love us.
If we are doing this, our house will stand up to wind and rain and even fire. We will be ready to stand before God knowing that our sins are forgiven and we have built wisely upon the foundation of Christ.
Paul uses 4 metaphors in this section. Two of these we have discussed to some extent.
Are we eating solid food or still nursing as an infant in Christ?
What are we building with upon the foundation of Christ?
But he also reminds us that our response to God’s love is like one who plants a seed or one who waters it. Each will be rewarded according to their purpose. Credit for any work done is for the Master alone to give as he desires.
So whatever our purpose, we must not compare it with what another is called to do. Those are the things than bring division to the body of Christ.
God causes the increase. All glory and credit truly belong to him.
Finally, Paul reminds us that our bodies themselves are truly a temple. God dwells within. We do not take what is holy and use it for unholy purposes.
For all we have considered from this third chapter, we must note that this discussion is not about gaining or losing our salvation, but about what we do with our salvation.
How do we respond to God’s love that we know through grace?
How do we respond to being set free to truly live?
Will we spend all of our lives nursing?
Will we build a straw house upon a solid rock foundation?
Will we seek credit for every little thing we do?
Will we take what God has made holy and do things that are unholy?
Our salvation is not in question.
What is at stake here is our discipleship. Will we really follow Jesus?
Or do we desire the things of this world so much, that we will be content only to know that we won’t die?
Do we desire the ways of the world so much, that we will never truly live as God intended? I have it on good authority that the plans he has for us are good plans.
Will we keep on trying to build that which is already built—our salvation—or will we finally build upon it?
I have mentioned only a few things that we all can do to build upon the foundation of Christ, but there are many others and some that are specifically tied to our gifts.
Some are called to preach and teach.
Others are called to various forms of service.
Some are called to pray more than others.
Some are called to go unto the ends of the earth.
Some are called to minister within a block of where they live.
The questions are straightforward.
Are we ready for some solid food?
Are we ready to build with brick and stone upon the rock solid foundation that we have been given?
There is a world of hurting people all around us. Will we bring them home to be a part of God’s family?
Will we trust God with our money? Will we fill his house so that the church meets the needs of the community?
Will we bring up our children in the way they should go?
Will we set an example for a debt crazed culture and live within our means?
Will we feed the hungry?
Will we live as a forgiven people? Will we take God at his word that we are forgiven?
Will we take what is holy and use it for holy purposes?
I say that the church has waited long enough. It is time to quit wrestling over causes and conditions, what qualifies and what disqualifies, who does things one way and who does them another; and time to chow down on some real food and do some real building.
I say that the Christian should be the most relevant person in the community for through them people will come to know God and his love that we know in Christ Jesus.
Some will tell me today that they enjoyed the message. There is a message of blessed assurance in this message of challenge. You are saved. And if that’s all that you take with you, well, that’s too bad.
For only those who have been introduced to a little discomfort to go along with this blessed assurance are likely to change their diet or start replacing straw with bricks in their daily construction efforts.
One day what we built upon this foundation of salvation—this foundation of Christ Jesus—will be examined, tested if you will. Nothing will be hidden.
Salvation will not be in question. What God has done for us even our most pitiful efforts cannot undo.
But some will dread this day because they nursed their entire lives away. Some know they built nothing upon the foundation that was prepared for us.
But some—and I hope this is you—some will look forward to the day when our sins and shortcomings will not be discussed but only what we built upon the solid rock of Jesus Christ will be in the conversation.
Are we contemplating this day with regret in advance or are we ready to say, “Daddy, look what I built on the foundation you gave me.”