We are renovating our new offices and church right now, and those of you who have volunteered and done various things in there would know that I am completely incompetent when it comes to building.
The Bible teaches a lot about building, and uses building to illustrate many aspects of life, including building your life in Him and building the church. So, faced with so much building, I thought is would start a series on building as we build our new church, and as Lily House moves in here to build their new home. Today we will talk about building your life, and next week go on to how God builds the church and His body. Paul writes…
1 Corinthians 3:9-17 (ESV)
For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
LET ME ASK YOU, WHAT ARE YOU BUILDING?
In places like the Philippines and India, you can pretty much build whatever you want, where ever you want, and mercifully most of the structures don’t fall down… Very often. (Show funny examples)
Here however, we have Council and government regulations and guidelines, meaning you cannot build whatever, where ever.
When it comes to building your life and the church, God also has standards.
Psalms 127:1 (ESV)
Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
You can spend a lot of time building something you think is impressive, only to find it all entirely worthless in the long run. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth about what they were building in their lives. This is significant, because they were a bunch of immature, selfish, self seeking believers.
1 Corinthians 3:2-3 (ESV)
I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh.
Then he goes on to talk about building, so My question to all of us this morning is, what are we building? We have all had some kind of reset in our lives due to COVID, and some of us have had resets because of operations, deaths, financial loss, change of job, or state, or church. Resets seem hard at the time, but they give us licence to reassess what we are building into our lives. So let’s examine what Paul teaches here.
GRACE AND WORKS
Let’s start by making this clear… We are saved by Grace, plus nothing! We don’t have to reach a certain standard of behaviour to be saved, we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ alone. Not by rituals, not by church attendance, not by good works or kindness or theology… Just believing and accepting Jesus as Lord.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
We are not, cannot and could never be saved from an eternity separated from God, by our works. It is by Grace alone though faith. But note the next verse…
Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
To do good works is to express appreciation to God for His free gift of salvation. At the same time, though, good works allow us to be part of God’s advancement of His Kingdom. Think about it… To accept a free gift and then to neglect or abuse the gift is to insult the giver. When we respond to God’s salvation by being unwilling to give our time, talents, or resources for his purposes, we demonstrate a lack of gratitude. He laid down His life for us, and we gratefully accept, but then can’t be bothered!
So works do play a role, not in saving us but in building godliness into our lives. You’re not saved by your good works, but you are saved to do good works.
Many Christians are unfulfilled and miserable, not because they aren’t saved, but because they’ve never gotten around to doing the works God has prepared for them. They’re not obedient, they’re not growing in their faith, and in essence, they are living on a concrete slab!
What are you building?
So let’s talk about how to build a victorious life in Christ…
1. THE FOUNDATION- JESUS CHRIST
1 Corinthians 3:11 (ESV)
For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is the foundation upon which we must build our lives. At the new auditorium, we have been talking about building a wall with 1m deep footings. Every building needs a solid foundation, and so do we. As Jesus said,
Matthew 7:24-27 (ESV)
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
A building’s structure is important, but the first question must always concern the foundation. What are you building in in your life?
Four important truths stand out about foundations…
- A foundation is the first portion of a building. You cannot add it in later, and in the same way, the Lord Jesus is first and foremost with his people. God in his purpose has chosen a people, but he has no such people apart from Christ.
- A foundation is the support of the whole structure, and there is no church except that which derives all its support from Christ Jesus. Any group call in itself a church which depends for salvation and eternal life on anything besides or beyond the merit of Christ’s atoning sacrifice, is not a true church.
- The shape of a building is determined by its foundation. If any portion of a church is not based on Christ, it is a deformed addition to the plan, and less than stable.
- A foundation is indispensable to a building, and so Christ is indispensable to a true church. In a house we might close in a door, and we might remove parts of the roof, and still it might be a house. But we cannot have a house at all if we take away the foundation. We cannot have a church of Christ if Jesus Christ is not there as the foundation.
If you don’t have Jesus Christ I your life, you are building something that, in the end, is worthless. But even if you have asked Him into your heart, the next question is, what are you actually building?
I had a friend whose house had a terrible cracking the wall. You can paper over it, but the crack reappears, because the problem is not with the wall, it is in the foundation. Unless you build on the foundation of Jesus, cracks will appear!
2. THE BUILD
It is the responsibility of every believer to build upon that one, sure foundation. We all have a choice… We can build a single story house, double, triple, stone, wood, hardiflex. Every builder has a choice of materials, and every choice has consequences.
1 Corinthians 3:12 (ESV)
Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—
We spiritually build what we choose to build on the foundation. What are you building? Is it something of eternal value, Gold, silver or costly stones, or something, temporal, something worldly, albeit good?
The Taj Mahal is a smallish building, a mausoleum, in a nice garden, built in the 1640s for, at the time, around $956 million. Today it is valued beyond any price. It is like what we could build if we choose the right material… all Gold, marble, inlaid with jewels. Eternal materials.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (ESV)
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
As you well know, a little piece of gold isn’t as visible as a hay stack. Possibly God is the only One who knows about that little piece of gold. Now a haystack is another thing—I have traveled out west, and it seemed to me I could see haystacks that were twenty miles away.
There are a lot of Christian folk building haystacks, and everybody hears about what they are doing. They look big, look impressive from a distance, but when you examine them closely, they are not as impressive. So what are you building into your life right now?
3. THE TEST
1 Corinthians 3:13-15 (ESV)
each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
The haystacks are going to be tested someday, and then there won’t be one left standing, because the testing is going to be by fire. The same thing will be true of works of wood or stubble. So what is Paul saying here?
The Day spoken of here is clearly Judgement Day. And yes, we will all be judged, every one of us. Unbelievers face the judgement of the Great White Throne, where God with a broken heart will say to all unbelievers, depart from me, I never knew you.
But believers will also be judged, did you know that?
2 Corinthians 5:10 (ESV)
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
This is not where the foundation is judged, but where the building is judged.
The Word for received is KOMIZO, which means to carry off or to preserve. This fits perfectly with the previous passage, where fire tested the builder’s work, and only what survives will be preserved will be counted.
4. THE ABIDING
1 Corinthians 3:14 (ESV)
If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.
The Greek for “survives” is MENO, which actually means to remain, to tarry and especially to abide. The KJV says, “If any man’s works abide.” This is an interesting and often used word in the Bible, and it is the word used in
John 15:5 (ESV)
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
John 15:7 (ESV)
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
What it is saying is that if we abide in Christ, He abides in us, and we bear spiritual fruit that will abide through the test of the Judgement Seat of Christ.
A number of years ago, a study done by an agricultural school in Iowa reported that production of 100 bushels of corn from one acre of land, in addition to the many hours of the farmer’s labor, required the following… 4,000,000 lbs. of water, 6,800 lbs. of oxygen, 5,200 lbs. of carbon, 160 lbs. of nitrogen, 125 lbs. of potassium, 75 lbs. of yellow sulphur, and other elements too numerous to list. In addition to these things, which no man can produce, rain and sunshine at the right time are critical. It was estimated that only 5% of the produce of a farm can be attributed to the efforts of man. If we were honest, we’d have to admit that the same is true in producing spiritual fruit.
We can do what we do, serving the Lord or otherwise but Abiding in Christ is the only way to produce real and eternal fruit, and the only way to build gold, silver and costly stones into your life.
5. THE REWARDS
I ask you again, what are you building today? What kind of material are you using? If you are building with gold, it may not seem to be very impressive now. If you are building an old haystack, it might stand out on the horizon, but in a coming day it will go up in smoke.
1 Corinthians 3:15 (ESV)
If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
I like to put it like this: there are going to be some people in heaven who will be there because their foundation is Christ but who will smell as if they had been bought at a fire sale! Everything they ever did will have gone up in smoke. Ultimately, all they will have left is a concrete slab. They will not receive a reward for their works, because they never built anything of eternal value.
6. THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION
Paul makes his point in this passage through the image of metal being purified in a refining fire. The flames burn away the worthless impurities, leaving only what is truly precious behind. So let’s get practical here, what are we actually talking about?
Based on the values laid out in Scripture, we can imagine some of what constitutes “gold, silver, precious stones”: acts of charity and kindness; godly decision-making; pursuing justice and fair play; keeping our word; exuding courage and perseverance in the face of opposition and persecution; humility; communicating Christ’s message to others; loving well our spouse and children; working hard wherever God puts us; trusting God to keep His promises. Praying and Reading God’s Word, obey it, and living for Him. The bottom line is, when the flames die down, whatever is left meets with God’s approval. It will please Him. It will bless Him.
We can likewise envision what sorts of “wood, hay, straw” will burn up: lies we have told; abusive acts; manipulative behaviour, trying to get your own way; thefts we have committed; selfishness of every kind; squandering our income on trivial luxuries; living only for ourselves, ignoring the poor and disadvantaged; grasping for money, for prestige, for positions of power. Arrogance and self-sufficiency; lack of faith.
But believer beware, because what Paul implies here is that it’s not just what you do for the Kingdom, it’s the attitude behind it. The motivation, the why, is more important than what you’ve actually done. God can speak through a donkey, He doesn’t need you to reach the world. He gives you the privilege of serving Him. But things done for Jesus out of arrogance or self importance don’t rank as gold, they are wood, hay and straw.
Matthew 6:16, you have received your payment in full.
It is well worth it to ask ourselves: When the smoke clears, what will be left?
Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV)
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
I want to invite you to join us in the great endeavour of reaching our nation for Jesus, to get involved and build something that will last for eternity.
Christianity should not be a spectator sport. We have the privilege of being players on the field, we get to experience the battles, the struggles and the ultimate victory.
God designed church as a great way to build things of eternal value into your life, And Ignite is a great vehicle to get involved. You don’t have to be especially skilled or gifted, but there’s a place where you can serve, where you can bless and be blessed.
Today I want to encourage you to stop, look at your life and honestly examine what you have built so far on the foundation of Jesus Christ. Is it gold, silver or costly stones? Is it wood, hay or straw? Your life, your family, your fortune, your friends… When fire tests the quality of what you have built, will you come out smelling of roses or smelling of smoke?
Read 1 Corinthians 3:9-17
HOW CAN YOU BE SURE YOU HAVE THE FOUNDATION OF JESUS CHRIST IN YOUR LIFE?
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS REPRESENTED BY THE GOLD, SILVER AND COSTLY STONES? OR THE WOOD, HAY AND STRAW? ARE THEY TEMPORAL OR ETERNAL?
WHAT PRACTICAL THING CAN YOU DO THIS WEEK THAT WILL BUILD THE RIGHT THINGS INTO YOUR LIFE?