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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Incidental or Intentional?

24-25"These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.  26-27"But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don't work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards."
(Matthew 7:24-27)

Jesus concludes the Sermon on the Mount with these words - reminding each of his disciples that the words he spoke were not just to be "incidental" to their lives, but a living part of who they were.  If we really get the meaning of this passage, it can be life-transforming.  Jesus tells us that we have to "work these words INTO our life" - uh oh, I just used a four-letter word (work)!  That is how many Christians view that word - having to "work" to get hold of what God has for us in the Word of God is sometimes more overwhelming that we would like, so we just don't do it.

The difference between "incidental" learning and "intentional" learning is significant.  Incidental learning is that which happens without any coordinated effort on your part - it is almost accidental.  There is no coordinated plan for learning, so when it occurs, it is called incidental.  Incidental learning is almost always contingent on someone else's learning - in other words, we get the learning because someone else taught us what they had learned first.  Paul referred to this as being "baby" Christians who need the "milk of the Word" to give us sustenance.  

Intentional learning is they type of learning that is done with a purpose in mind.  When you are intentional about learning, you know hat it is you seek to learn about, you use resources available to dig for the truths yourself, and you consult references when you need to dig deeper.  With intentional learning, lessons are first-hand.  You come to know the truth yourself.  This is the type of learning that Jesus was referring to here - "working the word" deep into your life so it impacts your every action.

Jesus refers to these lessons as foundational - they give us a stability when times get tough.  Rains come, strong winds blow, but we stand strong.  How does that occur?  Through intentionally allowing the Word of God to get worked into the very fibers of our being.  At first, it seems hard and like nothing will ever make sense, but in time, little truths begin to pop off the pages at you.  Most importantly, when you are working that word deep into your life, it is there when you need to stand upon it!  That is why Jesus referred to it as "foundational".  

If you are like me, you want walls and a roof (you want something to show for your efforts) - but you cannot neglect the grounding of a good foundation.  A good foundation takes time to build.  There is a footing that must be laid - it must be plumb and well positioned.  If it is laid on sandy soil (a heart that really is not intent on holding to the truths), it will be difficult to build a solid foundation.  As the footing of God's word is laid, then we are ready to "fill in the spaces between the foot" with the stuff that gives us the character to stand strong.  Now, we have a foundation!

Maybe you are in the "footing" stage of growth - being made plumb and just beginning the work of having a solid foundation.  Maybe your foundation has been laid for a while and it is time to begin to build upon it.  Either way, God is eagerly awaiting the time you will take with him to allow him to assist you in "working" the word into your life.  Together, you will be building a temple fit for a king!