29/7/01 10.45 a.m. Luke 6:43-49

Introductory Story : The Carpenter's Mistake

After years of working for the same company, an elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer of his plans to leave the building trade and live a more leisurely life with his wife and family. He would miss the money, but he would manage on his pension.

The building contractor was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house, as a personal favour. The carpenter said yes, but in time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. His workmanship suffered and he used poor materials. It was an unfortunate way to end his career.

When the job was complete, his employer came to inspect the house and surprisingly, handed the man the keys to the doors. "This is your house," he said, "my gift to you in appreciation for your many years of valued service."

What a shock! What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently. Now he was the owner of a poorly built house.

Main Talk :

What would your reaction be if I said that Vincent Furnier would be joining us here this morning ? Most of you would probably say, ' Who is he ? '

Well, I'll give you a few clues :

He was recently described as 'Long-haired, big-nosed, Cuban-heeled with thin, pipe-cleaner legs. He is 53 and has recorded 25 albums.'

This piece of music might help... ( Play 'Schools out' on MIDI )

On stage he looks like this ( Show mask )

According to a recent article Alice Cooper, as he is better known confesses that he is a committed Christian. The report quoted him as saying, " I've had every car, every mansion. I went through everything you could. " He spent years as an alcoholic before becoming a Christian 10 years ago. After years of wild living he realised that there was nothing that satisfied. " I was the prodigal son. I left the house, achieved fame and fortune and found out that was not what I wanted. Now I read the Bible every day. I pray every day. That's what I'm all about. "

When questioned about his stage act he said, " If you gave me a choice between rock 'n' roll and my faith, I'd take my faith. Rock 'n' roll is fun, it's what I do for a living. But it's not what I live on. I believe in classic Christianity. I've given my whole life to the Lord. But I don't think that means you cannot be a rock 'n' roller. "

Some people might be sceptical about someone who looks like Alice Cooper, but claims to be a Christian. Immediately before today's reading Jesus warned his followers that they were not to condemn people, but to be generous, merciful and forgiving.

Jesus words that we read today challenged his hearers to consider if they were really his followers, and they challenge every one of us today.

Jesus said we should live in a right relationship with him which will lead to right actions, based on right foundations leading to the right destiny.

A right relationship with Jesus. Jesus said that people would call him 'Lord' without realising what this really meant. In Jesus day such an expression could be a formal greeting given to someone who deserved respect. But Jesus was talking about being the number one priority in someone's life. We heard earlier how Alice Cooper put rock 'n' roll, fame, fortune, possessions, and drink first in his life, but realised that these things didn't bring him the fulfilment, pleasure and satisfaction that he needed. Once we put Jesus first then this brings us peace with God, an everlasting hope, membership of a world-wide family, and the joy and fulfilment of following Jesus.

Perhaps each of us needs to ask ourselves this morning, " What is the most important thing in my life ? " If you're not sure then look at what Alice Cooper said. He said that, if he had to make a choice he would give up rock 'n' roll rather than Christianity. If there is something that is more important than Jesus you are living a second class life, God has something better for you

Have you seen the television programme " So you think you're a good driver ? " In last week's programme they featured a lady who would only park in empty car parks, and even then she didn't get within the parking bay ! They enlisted the help of a Police Driving Instructor. He got her to drive out of a parking place with a vehicle either side. Once they had turned out of the space he them got her to do the opposite and reverse back into the space. He stressed that what was most important was to start off from the right place. This was something we discovered two weeks ago when our volunteers tried to tie a piece of string in a knot without letting go of the string ( cf Ezra 6:1-7 ). We saw then that, if we start off with God the seemingly impossible can happen.

After the lady had mastered the parking the policeman blindfolded her and got her to reverse into the space by following his instructions. Her trust in this man revolutionised her driving. So much so that she went on to successfully reverse an enormous juggernaut into a parking bay bordered by cones.

Our relationship with Jesus can do this. But we have to trust him, to put him in our driving seat, we have to hear and obey what he is telling us to do. Nowadays we live in a society that rejects authority and people think that they know best. But if you look at the mess that the world is we see this philosophy is not working. God's knows best and he wants the best for us. That is why he sent Jesus, to teach us how to live and to bridge the gap between us and God.

Only a fraction of an iceberg is visible above the water. This is true of our lives. Jesus said in verses 46-49 that we not only need to say that he is Lord but also show it in our lives by the way that we think, speak, and act. This is the good fruit that we are to produce, verses 43-45. It is not that we are put right with God by our actions. The Bible tells us that none of us are good enough for that. No, we are put right with God by accepting that we fall short of God's perfect will for us and that Jesus took the punishment for our shortcomings on the cross. Even this acceptance is a work of God, rather than something that we do in our own strength. The real proof that we have accepted God's grace is the transformation in our lives.

It's like the lady driver. She has been shown how to park properly. She knows how to do it and has the confidence to do it. But she needs to keep doing it correctly, otherwise her time with the Police Driving Instructor will have been worthless.

Those of us who have decided to follow Jesus are called to keep going. Not taking short cuts but obeying his teaching. This is the foundation we are called to build our lives upon. True, at times, it will be hard work. But when was anything of any value gained easily ? We live in a shallow world, but foundations need to be deep. In an erthquake what matters is not the size of your house, but the depth of your foundations. This is why it is important for Christians to meet together regularly to worship, pray and study the Bible.

Think back to the elderly carpenter that I told you about earlier. Imagine how he felt. The regret, and the shame, yet having to acknowledge the justice of the situation.

Picture of yourself as a carpenter, about to build your own life. Each day you hammer a nail, place a board, or erect a wall. Build wisely. It is the only life you will ever build. Even if you live it for only one day more, that day deserves to be lived graciously; preserving both our integrity and our respect of God.

Consider the alternatives that people build their lives upon. Pleasure, money, health and fitness, possessions, popularity, status, success, busyness... All these things are temporary, cannot be relied upon and none of them will truly satisfy.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Christian who opposed the Nazis, (1905-1945), he said, " Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. "

I mentioned earlier that Jesus said we should live in a right relationship with him which will lead to right actions, based on right foundations leading to the right destiny. When Jesus referred to the house with foundations standing secure against the elements he was giving a picture of the eternal destiny that awaits those who persevere and put his teaching into practice. They can look forward to the blessings of knowing and serving God in this life and look forward to the certain hope of receiving perfect resurrection bodies, and living in fellowship with God in glory for ever.

In the light of today's reading...

What, or who is Lord of your life today ?

How secure are your foundations ?