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Why Did Jesus Come to Earth? (4)

To Provide a Place of Refuge for Sinners

Luke 6:46-49

Jim Davis

Those of us who live in Florida know something about building houses upon solid foundations. We have seen trenches dug in the sandy soil for the purpose of pouring them full of concrete to provide a foundation for building upon the sand. Several years ago along the west coast of northern Florida many of the homes built upon such foundations were collapsing under the onslaught of high tides driven by hurricanes. The sand simply washed out from under the foundations allowing the houses to collapse. Now the houses on the coastlines are built upon pilings driven 30 feet into the sandy soil. The houses may collapse from hurricane force winds but rarely do they collapse from the eroding tide eating away at the sand.

Luke 6:46-49
"Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete." (NIV)

Christ came to earth to provide a rock solid foundation for our lives. Isaiah wrote, "So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed." (Isaiah 28:16 NIV) This rock solid foundation provides us with a place of refuge throughout life. Solomon said, "When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever."(Proverbs 10:25 NIV)

When Paul was writing to the Corinthians, he spoke of Christ as the rock solid foundation on which the church is built.

1 Corinthians 3:10-11
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. (NIV)

When we come to Christ we become part of that rock solid foundation.

1 Peter 2:4-8
As you come to him, the living Stone-- rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him--you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame." Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone," and, "A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the message-- which is also what they were destined for. (NIV)

The foundation for the spiritual building we become a part when we obey Christ is so solid that the gates of death cannot prevail against it. Jesus said to Peter, "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 'I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.'" (Matthew 16:18-19 NIV) Truthfully speaking, I cannot think of anything more powerful than spiritual and physical death. The power of each is so great that we have no means of prevailing against them without becoming a member of Christ's church.

The indestructible nature of the church makes it a perfect refuge for time and eternity. As we flee to God to avail ourselves of the refuge he has set before us we have a great consolation. The Hebrew writer says, "that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us." (Hebrews 6:18 NKJ) God becomes our refuge when we lay hold upon the hope extended to us through the salvation Christ provides. The Hebrew writer makes it clear that Christ provides the only place of refuge.

Christ provides a place of refuge for all as he salvages sinful lives and brings them into his church. I believe the church of our Lord is the eternal kingdom over which Christ rules and it is in his church that we find that place of refuge. (You might want to consider the second sermon "Why Did Christ Come to Earth? (2), for a further explanation of the church as the eternal kingdom of Christ.)

God's Places of Refuge

God has always provided a place of refuge for his people. A place of refuge is not a place that allows us to escape the storms of life, but rather a place of safety while the storms are raging from within and without. The ark was a place of refuge for Noah during the raging flood. I have wondered if Noah or his family ever got seasick during the voyage. Have you ever thought about the devastation they had to overcome after the flood? However, regardless of their frightening experiences during the voyage and after the voyage, they were always safe from the raging flood and the aftermath of the storm for they lived under the protective hand of God.

God provided the city of Zoar as a place of refuge for Lot and his family as he rained fire and brimstone upon the cities of Sodom (Genesis 19:21-22). The harsh wilderness of Sinai became a place of refuge for God's people as they fled Egypt. As Elijah fled for his life God provided Elijah with a cave of refuge as the ravens fed him. God's protective hand provided a place of refuge for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego within Nebuchadnezzar's fiery furnace as they were saved from the flames. Ironically, Nebuchadnezzar's palace became a place of refuge for Daniel during Babylonian captivity. God's protective hand made the lion's den a place of safety for Daniel as the wise men of Babylon sought to destroy him.

Psalms 46:1-3
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah (NIV)

The psalmist wrote, "Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Selah." (Psalms 62:8 NIV)

1 Samuel 2:2-10
"There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. "Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the LORD is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed. "The bows of the warriors are broken, but those who stumbled are armed with strength. Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry hunger no more. She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away. "The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up. The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. "For the foundations of the earth are the LORD's; upon them he has set the world. He will guard the feet of his saints, but the wicked will be silenced in darkness. "It is not by strength that one prevails; those who oppose the LORD will be shattered. He will thunder against them from heaven; the LORD will judge the ends of the earth. "He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed." (NIV)

Today God's place of refuge is the church of our Lord. The church is made up of those who have been saved from sins powerful grip. The church consists of those lives being salvaged from sin by the ongoing work of God's protective grace.

John 10:27-30
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one." (NIV)

In these verses we see Christ's salvation and the ongoing protection provided as our lives are being salvaged from sin.

What Christ's Refuge Provides

Christ’s church offers a refuge of security in spite of our sinful failures. Christ himself provides a place for his church to rest upon the solid provisions of his grace regardless of our failures. "Looking at his disciples, he said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh." (Luke 6:20-21 NIV)

The people of Jesus' day were no different than people who live now. They thought happiness and security came from possessions, or holding an exalted position, or enjoying the pleasures and popularity that money could buy. When we believe that our happiness and security come from these things---how many of us really have a shot at living a secure and happy life? Not that these things would really bring security or happiness. Have you ever stopped to notice how many unhappy people there are who have attained these things? Look at the divorces and drug problems of those who have become "fortunate" enough to attain these things. These people seem to be looking elsewhere for happiness.

Even if we did attain these worldly goals, this would be all the reward that we would ever receive. Jesus said, "But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets." (Luke 6:24-26 NIV)

Jesus teaches us that the poor, the hungry and those who are weeping will have happiness. It is the opposite of what we expect. In Matthew's account Jesus makes it clear that the poor in spirit he speaks of are those who hunger and thirst after God's righteousness (Matthew 5:3, 6). The hungering, thirsting and weeping is over the sin in the lives of those spiritually poor.

Poverty, hunger, persecution and tears are not the source of our happiness, but they are the things that can drive us into the arms of God as we cry out "God be merciful to me a sinner." It is there that we find a refuge for our souls.

Isaiah 61:1-3
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion--to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. (NIV)

Christ came to deliver us from the bondage of sin. Christ's church provides a place of refuge and freedom for the brokenhearted held captive by sin. Christ came to free us of the spirit of despair and mourning as he places upon us a garment of praise. When we come to Christ to accept his salvation, we clothe ourselves with Christ. Paul makes it clear that we clothe ourselves with Christ in baptism. Paul writes, " . . . for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." (Galatians 3:27 NIV)

To be clothed with Christ is to be clothe with his protective power; it is to be clothed with his righteousness and his sufficiency. The church is a place of safety for those of us who are spiritually hungry. No matter how hard we try or how miserably we fail Christ's church provides constant safety for each of us. It is a place where, what we are lacking is filled by that which only Christ can supply. The church is a place where our despair and mourning over our failures is replaced with a garment of praise that allows us to sing jubilant praises to God.

Entering Christ's Refuge Requires Obedience

We must avail ourselves of the refuge Christ provides through obedience. Grace does not eliminate our need to do Christ's will "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?'"(Luke 6:46 NIV) Grace does not come because of our perfect obedience, but faith in God's grace makes obedience essential. However, it is grace that provides the security net when we do fail.

2 Timothy 2:19
Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness." (NIV)

As we seek to build our lives upon the foundation Christ provides through obedience to his will, we can rest assured that we can succeed in spite of our failures. A new convert came to a minister troubled over his failures. "No matter how much I pray," said the man, "no matter how hard I try, I simply cannot seem to be totally faithful to my Lord. I question my salvation." The minister said, "Do you see this dog here? He is my dog. He is house-trained; he never makes a mess; he is obedient; he is a pure delight to me. Out in the kitchen I have a son, a baby son. He makes a mess, he throws his food around, he fouls his clothes, he is a total mess. But who is going to be my heir? Not my dog; my son is my heir. You are Jesus Christ's heir because it is for you that He died." So it is with us. We are Christ's heirs, not through our perfection but by means of his grace.

Salvation comes through an obedient faith by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). Obedience to Christ is the door through which we must pass to avail ourselves of the refuge God's grace provides. It is only through obedience that we can build our lives upon the solid foundation grace provides. Let us look at the previous verses again:

Luke 6:46-49
"Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete." (NIV)

How we build upon the foundation Christ provides is crucial. A solid foundation is crucial but it will not prevent shoddy workmanship in the lives built upon them. Many have sought Christ for salvation while they have sought to live self-determined lives. To seek Christ for salvation while determined to live self-chosen lives can only lead to destruction.

1 Corinthians 3:10-15
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple. (NIV)

Paul warns us to take heed how we build our lives upon the foundation Christ provides. It is impossible to build a solid spiritual church upon Christ with shoddy attitudes. You cannot build a solid church upon lives that are built upon human impulses. Members of the church must see themselves as God's church rather than a church where human impulses are reigning unchecked. We must take responsibility for how we build our lives upon the superstructure Christ provides. One day our work will be scrutinized.

We are reminded that we can destroy God's temple, which is the church. Paul asks, "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple." We can destroy the church by living shoddy lives---by giving way to our own self-chosen ways. We are also reminded that if we do destroy God's temple God will destroy us.

Obedience to Christ is essential because it is impossible to build a secure life upon the foolishness of human thinking. There are times that no matter how right we are, we must avoid the very appearance of evil. Sometimes we have to confine ourselves to living this way for the sake of others. At times living for Christ takes us beyond selfish impulses for our own well-being, it makes us look to the needs of the church as a whole as we seek to build the church upon solid principles.

Conclusion:

When I was a child there was a very popular song: "He has the Whole World in His Hands." I believe that in a very real sense the whole world is blessed by God's protective power. If God were to withdraw his power from the galaxy in which we live, the foundations upon which it is built would collapse. Life would be impossible. I believe that one day this is what will literally happen.

2 Peter 3:10-14
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. (NIV)

The only lives that will stand in that terrible day are those built upon the solid Eternal Rock---that is Jesus Christ. Christ the solid Rock will be the only place of refuge in that final hour. The child of God has his/her life built upon the eternal foundation will be the only place of refuge when this world collapses.

Luke 18:25-30
Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Those who heard this asked, "Who then can be saved?" Jesus replied, "What is impossible with men is possible with God." Peter said to him, "We have left all we had to follow you!" "I tell you the truth," Jesus said to them, "no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life." (NIV)

You must realize that it is impossible to build a solid life without Christ, but with God's help all things are possible. Only the sacrifices made for Christ will allow us reap a bountiful life now and eternal life hereafter.

Christ’s church provides us with a place of safety where we can examine our lives honestly as we seek to discover and obey God's will. As we sincerely see our sin and seek to turn from it, we have no need to be frightened, because we remain clothed with Christ's righteousness as we seek to allow him to salvage our lives from sin.

2 Corinthians 5:18-21
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ . . . not counting men's sins against them . . . We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (NIV)

God pleads with those who have forsaken him.

Deuteronomy 32:18
You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth. (NIV)

Deuteronomy 32:29
If only they were wise and would understand this and discern what their end will be!

Zechariah 9:12
Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you. (NIV)

Psalms 62:8
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Selah (NIV)

2 Samuel 22:32-37
For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God?
It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights.
He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You give me your shield of victory; you stoop down to make me great.
You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn. (NIV)

 

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