Countless ministries, organizations, churches and Christian business are dedicated to laying (or restoring) a firm foundation in what Hebrews 5 describes as “the elementary doctrines of Christ."
The nature of God.
The nature of man.
The fact of sin and the necessity of repentance, submission, and salvation.
The sovereignty of God.
These “elementary doctrines” are obviously important. They’re essential. They’re beautiful, too. Each of them is infinitely more than worthy of an eternity of contemplation by our finite minds.
But God has not shown us these beautiful foundational truths so that we might sit awestruck gazing at them with slack jaws and wide eyes forevermore. While initial reactions along those lines and even seasons of almost paralyzing awe are reasonable and do happen, these phases are to come and they are to go as we move on down the path that has been made available to us through God’s gracious revelation of these elementary doctrines.
We have to pass through the gate; not just sit there staring at it.
We have to move on.
We have to grow.
We have to pursue maturity and actually build upon the beautiful foundation that has been laid for us and revealed to us.
Yet ours is an American culture in which even most of the very best, most solidly Reformed Christian ministries are focused upon revisiting and re-revisiting and re-re-revisiting the elementary things.
Some of my favorite ministries fall into this camp. I’ve learned about and savored many of the elementary things of Christ through the fine work of organizations like Ligonier, for example. RC Sproul’s The Holiness of God is still one of my absolute favorites and hearing Dr. Sproul preach on the holiness of God during a Ligonier conference that I attended in (I think it was) 2008 is still a very cherished memory.
Even so, and while I certainly do hope that the likes of Ligonier will continue to do what they do so well, the more I see of what “the best” of American evangelicalism has become, the easier it is to understand why American culture has been so thoroughly overrun and dominated by the enemies of Christ.
At our best, we in the professing Christian sub-culture have more often than not become quite content with “the elementary things."
We’ve settled into a diet consisting almost exclusively of milk.
We avoid meat religiously, as it is much harder to chew and digest.
We want to proclaim the sovereignty of God in general over everything, but not over much of anything in any sort of uncomfortable or challenging detail.
So Jesus has become “sovereign” in our slogans, but not so much when it comes to our approach to children’s education, art, economics, and law.
What kind of lordship is that?
Not much, it would seem, and our American culture would seem to verify this suspicion.
We’ve majored in baby food, and it shows.
We’ve zoned in on building a perfect foundation while seeming to commit ourselves to never actually building anything on it.
In this context, please consider the following passage from Hebrews (with bold emphasis added):
About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity,not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
~ Hebrews 5:11-6:2
Does this sort of maturity resonate with us?
Do we want this kind of maturity?
Is our church leadership spurring us on to this kind of maturity?
Or are we content to remain stuck in baby food mode dwelling on the elementary things of Christ…again…and again…and again?
Do we even want to know, much less obey and apply, what Christ has clearly commanded us to actually do in the realms of children’s education, economics, and law?
Or do we just want to read another book or hear another sermon about the general “sovereignty of God” while avoiding those pesky details?
In this context, let’s consider both the importance and purpose of foundations in light of a passage from Scripture containing some oft-repeated, well known words from Jesus:
“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.”
And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.
~ Matthew 7:24-29
Notice the “built his house” part there?
That’s the “doing things” part. The house is the thing being built either in obedience to what Christ has said or in denial of it. The house is not the foundation. It is what’s built upon the foundation.
So the foundation is fundamental, to be sure, but it’s not the end. It’s the beginning. It’s the starting point. Christ is the foundation upon which other things are to happen, namely: The building of actual structures that serve actual purposes.
So if Jesus is really and truly our personal foundation for all things, like art, economics, law, education, and everything else, then what are we supposed to do with that foundation? What are we supposed to do with that fundamental truth? What are we supposed to do with that beautiful, essential, life- and culture-enabling foundation?
BUILD UPON IT, that’s what!
We are to embrace – not perpetually dwell upon and marvel over – the “elementary things” and go on from there to maturity and depth.
We are to build upon the Rock.
We are to build our lives, families, churches, businesses, communities, economics, cultures and civilizations upon the Rock.
We really and truly are to do these things, all by His grace, all for His glory, and all to the eternal benefit of His people. (See: The Great Commission as recorded in Matthew 28:18-20.)
If that doesn’t get you jazzed and ready to roll, I’m not sure what will…though I am pretty sure that another book on TULIP won’t do the trick.
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Thank you for your time and interest in these things.
We have a lot of building to do…and we’ve been perfectly equipped to do it.
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