series graphic image

January 15, 2023

Foundations Week 2: Choose Your Foundation

When I was growing up in Kentucky, my mom and dad — by the way, Kentucky did beat Tennessee in basketball today, but it's a whole other story. I probably shouldn't bring that up in church. Lord, forgive me. But when I was growing up in Kentucky, my mom and dad enrolled me and my younger brother in karate. I remember, one time, being instructed, and I remember the guy's name. His name was Larry Maddox. He was teaching me a certain thing, and I asked him, “Why do we do the same thing over and over and over again?”

I mean, they would teach you something, and then they would just do it and do it and do it. He said, “Well, the reason that we do this, Chip, is because when most people are attacked, what they don't have is any default mechanism for defense. It’s just sort of whatever happens, happens. What we're trying to do is to train you over and over again so that your muscles have some memory, so in case you do get attacked, maybe you will remember. You'll default back to the things that we have shown you.”

When I heard that, it didn't make as much sense to me as it does today, but I want you to hold that thought. I want you to hold that thought of when something comes your way, what is your default mechanism? I just want you to hold that because we're going to come back to that multiple times in this message, and we'll end, also, with that, with maybe a little bit more greater appreciation, not of the karate part but of something more profound, about a default that we all should have.

So, we're in a series called “Foundations.” It's a tradition around here at Grace that every year, at the beginning of the year, we go back and talk about who we are, why we do what we do, and the things that we do. We do that for a big reason. One of the things I know, and you know his, as well — we all know this — is that a family, an organization, a business, whatever it may be, it’s easy to start off with something and end up allowing yourself to move from that original mission or that original vision. They call it mission creep. You can just sort of creep away. It may not be that what you're moving towards is necessarily bad, but it's not what you started with.

We feel passionately, around here at Grace, that God has given us a vision and a mission to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. And I, as your pastor, every year, get up here, whether it's called DNA, whether it's called Culture, whether it's called Reset — this year, it's called Foundations — we go back, and we look at the things that make us who we are so that we don't forget. What we’ve found along the way is not only does it benefit all of us who are at the new year, sort of thinking about what the new year brings, what this is going to look like, what are some of the things that I'm going to do, or what are the things that I'm going to embrace, or what new thing am I going to participate in? But we know, as we gather as the people of God, it's super important to keep the main thing the main thing. So, what we’ve found is not only does it benefit all of us who go to Grace, but it is a huge benefit to those who've maybe come to Grace for several months, and you're still trying to figure out what this church is about, or what do they do? Or maybe you came back in January. Maybe you just started back in church. This is a great time because you're probably going, “Is this the church for me?”

We want you to be able to make a well-informed decision. So, as we go through this series, what we're looking at, and it's sort of the big idea of the series, is what are the structural systems that anchor and support the visions and ministries of Grace? In other words, what are the foundational elements of what Grace is all about? Why do we do what we do?

By the way, I want to take a moment here and say what a wonderful sermon Chris Absher gave last weekend. Come on. What a wonderful sermon. You’re also going to hear from Chris Pedro during this series because these are our Campus Pastors. These are young men that are growing up in the Lord. They’re going to do such great things, and I'm so glad they're a part of this church. I want you to hear from them as well because this is what we want to do. We want to reach people.

But what are those systems? Your body doesn't just hold up for no reason. It holds up because you have a skeleton inside of you. You have bones inside of you. That system holds you up. What is it that holds Grace up? What is it that makes this church what it is? As your pastor, I'm committed, at every single year, to review, re-go through, all of the things that make us who we are so that we do not lose focus. Because I don't want to look back, five years from now, and find out that we became a different church than what God wanted us to be. I'm going to keep holding that rudder in every single January, saying, “This is who we are. We're going to reach the unchurched, we're going to be intentional neighbors, and we're going to reflect Jesus in Lakewood Ranch, Sarasota, Bradenton, and as far as we can go.”

Amen? Okay. So, one of the things that goes unsaid — although, I think most of you all will say, “Yeah, that's true around here,” if you've been here for a while. But one of the most fundamental foundations of Grace Community Church is this: We teach and preach the Word of God. It's a foundational element here. I realize that preaching the Word of God is maybe not as in as it would've been at some point in our lives. There are a lot of people that go, “Well, I really don’t know how the Bible intersects, anymore, with life. It seems to be antiquated. I mean, come on, Chip. Have you read some of that Old Testament stuff? That’s crazy stuff. How does that work today? People are moving it around and making it be whatever it wants to be.”

What I want to do is try to tell you why I think that you should be in a church that teaches and preaches the Word of God, why you should want to be a part of a church that teaches and preaches the Word of God, and why you should want the Word of God in your life. Maybe right now you’re going, “I think I opened up the Bible a few times last year. I think I went to a Bible study once. It’s really not that big of a part of my life.”

Well, I want to try my best, as your pastor, in the next few minutes, a couple hours, to — I’m just making sure you're awake. I'll get you out of here on time. What are you going to do, go out and freeze? I mean, you’re stuck. It's nice and warm in here. If you go out there, you're going to be cold.

Anyways, I want to try my best to help you to say to yourself, “2023 is going to be a different year for me. I'm actually really going to dig into Scripture, and I'm going to really apply this to my life.”

I want to try to give you a reason for why you would want to do that. So, let's take a moment here, and let's ask a question to get us thinking.

Have you ever done something that you wish you had not done? Three minutes ago, getting coffee, pulling into the parking lot? Have you ever done something that you just couldn't believe you just did it? Like, “Ah, I can't believe I did that.”

Yeah. Every one of us can relate to that. There's not one of us in here that hasn't done something that we go, “Man, I wish I wouldn't have done that. I just wish I wouldn't have.”

You know this, I know this, and we all know this together. We know that when we do those things, we feel bad, we get a little disgusted at ourselves, maybe we feel really ashamed, maybe we feel guilty, maybe we feel depleted, and we just cannot believe that we did that. It's like, “Why did I do that? Why, in the moment, when the thing came, did I do what I did? Why was that my default? Why was that the choice that I made?”

Here’s what I want you to hear. I want you to hear this from your pastor. I want you to hear me really clearly here. The Lord does not want you and me to live a life of bad decisions and bad choices that lead us to regret, shame, and challenging consequences to live with. That's not what He wants for your life. You may think, “Oh, I grew up in a church that…”

No, He does not want that. That doesn't mean that there's not going to be grief in your life. That doesn't mean that there's not going to be pain in your life. That doesn’t mean that there are not going to be things that go on in your life that are challenging and difficult. But I'm telling you, what God doesn't want for your life — whether you believe that or not in this moment, I'm telling you that He does not want you to make all the bad choices and all the bad decisions that lead you and I to the difficulties, challenges, shame, and guilt that many of us live with. Many of us live with those things. We carry them around. They're baggage. They're things we hold onto because we just wish that we wouldn't have done that.

“I should’ve or could’ve done that. If I just would've chosen a little bit different. Why did I do that?”

The Lord doesn't want you and me to live this way. Do you know what He wants for you and I? He wants you and I to be able to stand in those days where we would've made a bad decision or a bad choice, and not do it, not give in. He wants us to be able to withstand when things come into our life. You know, the Bible has a different way of saying it. Sometimes it's flowery, or sometimes it's couched in language that you and I are maybe not familiar with, but this is the way Paul says it. Paul says, “Take up the whole armor of God.”

In other words, take up everything you can get from God — everything — that you may be able to withstand in the evil day. I'm not going to do a survey of hands, but if I did, I would say a lot of hands would go up if you said, “Hey, when the evil day came, when the attack came, did you stand?”

You would say, “No, I didn't. My default wasn't there. My default wasn't there to catch me. Do you know what, Chip? I didn't stand.”

But that's not what God wants for your life. He not only wants you to be able to withstand in the evil day, but He wants you having done all to stand firm. That’s what He wants. He wants you to get to the end of your life and not look back, saying, “I wish I wouldn't have. I wish I should have.”

He doesn't want that. He wants the best for you. This is the truth, and you know this, intuitively. If we don't lay a good and firm foundation, then what we build's not going to stand. You know that. You knew, when we built this building, if we'd have put some mud over here, some Coke cans over there, and a couple of things here and there, some whatever, or got some Cracker Jacks, put them here, and put a little bit of Styrofoam or whatever, the building wouldn't stand. You know that. You just know it. We all know that, especially in the tough times. So, no matter how much I may sit here and tell you, “Listen, I want you to really know what God says so that you don't live a life of regret, so that you don't live a life of bad choices, so that you know what to do in the situations because you've been trained,” — as much as I may say that, it's not going to be as powerful as the master communicator Himself, and that's Jesus. I want you to lean in here to what Jesus said, not what Chip’s telling you. I mean, I'm just going to tell you what Jesus says, but I want you to hear what Jesus said. He had a way of saying things so succinctly, so tightly, and so effectively. It's incredible.

We find Jesus, in Luke 6, talking to a bunch of people that are around Him for different reasons. Some people are there because they just have heard that He heals people. Some people are there because they want to hear what He has to say. Some people are there because they've decided to follow Him. Some people are questioning whether they should follow Him. In the middle of all these things that He’s saying about how to live life, many people are going, “I don't know. That sounds counterintuitive to the way I would do it.”

The same way you and I may feel, sometimes, when we look at Scripture and go, “Ah, I don't know. It doesn't seem to fit today.”

They felt the same way when Jesus would say things. Right in the middle of having this grand speech, He says this: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I tell you? Why would you call me Lord and not do what I tell you?”

Now, He doesn't say this to be snarky. I grew up in a tradition in a church where this was just used to just beat people up.

“You're not doing what He told you. You're not doing what He told you. You're not doing what He told you.”

You’re just always like, “Oh, man, God's out to give me.”

That's not what Jesus is doing here. What He’s doing is He’s pricking a window into our soul.

“Why would you follow me and not do what I tell you? What would be the reason for that? Is it because you don't understand it? Is it because it seems counterintuitive to you? Is it because you think it's antiquated? Well, let me explain to you why you shouldn't want to do what I tell you.”

Here’s what He says. Lean in here and listen. He says, Everyone that comes to me, hears my word, and does them…”

“Lean in, folks,” Jesus is saying. “I want to tell you why, if you call me Lord, you should do what I tell you to do. I'm not trying to control you. I'm not trying to manipulate you. I'm not trying to do any of that. I’m not even trying to cause harm for you. Listen to me. Everyone who comes to me, hears my words, and does them, I will show you what he is like. I want to show you why listening to what I have to say to you is important.”

He speaks their language in that day. Something that would relate to them. He says, “This is what it's like when you actually do the things I told you to do. He’s like a man building a house.”

In the first century, having a house was important. Many people didn't have a house. They were slaves, or they worked on people's farms and plantations. Having a house, much like today, in many ways, for you and me, is something that's a stepping stone. Many of you remember your first house. You remember what that meant. But what are you building? What's your house? Is it your business? Is it your relationship with your stepson? Is it your family? Is it your children? Is it your marriage? Is it your finances? Is it your health? What are you building?

He says, “It’s like a man who's building a house.”

That matters to Him. That's significant. That's a big deal.

“It's like a man building a house who dug deep. He looked at where his house was at, and he said, ‘I want to make sure that my house stays here,’ so I'm going to do a little bit more work. I’m going to give a little bit more time. I'm going to dig deep down to the foundation, to the rock foundation. I’m not going to circumvent. I'm not going to short circuit. I'm not going to take a shortcut. I'm going to dig deep and put this house on the right foundation.’ This is what it's like — it's not exactly perfect, but it's what it's like to do what I tell you. It’s like a man who has something that's precious to him, who builds, digs deep, and lays the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house, and it could not shake it because it had been well-built.”

That's what God wants for your life. That's what He wants for my life. He wants us to be well-built. He wants us to be able to stand. He wants us to know what to do, how to react, how to respond, because we've dug deep. And there's nobody in here that can read this, whether you're a Christian, whether you're not a Christian, whether you showed up here and you don't know why you came here, whether you don't know what was going on — I know there was a marathon that was ran today. Maybe you thought it was being run tomorrow, and you thought everybody was gathering here to sign up for the marathon, and you actually showed up. You’re like, “This is church. I didn't show up for this. I came to run.”

Well, you're here. Hang out. It's cold outside. But here's the flip side. Unfortunately, it's the flip side that many of us, unfortunately, know. The one who hears and does not do them, for whatever the reason — “I don't like it. I don't feel it. It doesn't make sense.”

Whatever it may be, if he doesn't do them, it’s just like a man who built his house on the ground without a foundation.

“The ground looks good. It looks like it'll hold a house. Let's build.”

How many times have we, in our lives, thought that the ground looked really good? But when we got there, it wasn’t. He didn't dig deep. He didn't take extra time. He just looked, said, “Looks good to me,” and he built. Jesus says, “Here's the result. When the stream broke against it, immediately,” — not after a while, but immediately — “it failed.”

How many of you can look back at your life and remember when the stream broke against you, and rather than standing, because you'd been well-built, you fail immediately?

It says, “The ruin of that house was great.”

See, Jesus is a master communicator because He lays it out in a way that we can understand. And all of us, there's nobody here, nobody here, who says, “You know what? I just want to build my house so that every time something goes wrong, it just falls down, it's a big ruin, and I’ve got to pick myself up for the next 20 years.”

Nobody wants to sign up for that. But isn't it interesting how much we will push against God, we'll end up in those situations, and Jesus is saying, “Hey, listen to me. Listen to me.”

So, a couple of takeaways here that I want us to really, really, really think about. I want you to hear me here. First of all, what you and I build our lives on has massive consequences. Now, I grew up in a tradition where everything was guilt and fear based. That’s the last thing we want to do here at Grace Community Church. So, if you hear anything from me like that, you're not hearing what I'm saying. You’re hearing something else because my heart is here to only help. My heart to see you succeed in your life pales in comparison to what God wants for your life. But what you build your life on matters. I'm going to give you just a real quick tool to assess that. The one thing each person in here has — we all have one thing that's very equal to all of us. We all have 24 hours in a day, and we all have 7 days in a week. We all have that.

What I would ask you to do, without putting yourself under judgment, guilt, or anything like that — there’s nothing snarky coming from my heart. I would just say to look at what you put into your system. What gets your attention? What gets your ears? What gets your eyes? What gets your time? What do you listen to? What do you read? What do you watch? Who do you talk to? If you or I are spending more time in those areas than we are in God's Word, I can assure you that you will be building your life on a foundation that when the stream breaks, you may not like what it looks like. That’s not to put anybody under any guilt or make anybody feel bad. I'm just saying, let's be honest. It's the beginning of the year. Let's take a moment and ask, “What are we ingesting?”

If you go, “Well, I mean, everything I'm ingesting is totally contrary to what God would want from me,” don't be surprised what that looks like. See, this is why Jesus says to us, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I tell you?”

Why do you think He says that? Do you know why He says that? He says that for our good. He doesn't say that to give you a hard time. He doesn't say that to make life difficult. He says that because He cares. But you and I have to take a moment, and we have to ask, not only as individuals, but even as a church, what are we going to build on? I'm here to tell you, here at Grace Community Church, we are going to build lives, families, children, kids, youth, adults and seniors — we are going to build you on the Word of God because we want you to stand.

Second thing: We don't usually get to choose the storms we face in life. Have you ever noticed that? Does your Apple Watch tell you it's coming? No, it doesn't. The radar may tell you when the storms coming, but the real storms of life, the difficulties of life, they usually come in a moment when you're not expecting them. So, we don't usually get to choose the storms we face in life, but we do get to choose the foundation on which we build.

We get to choose that. You get to choose that. All of us do. That's why He says, “Hey, listen. Let me show you what it’s like. Let me show you what it's like to build on the foundation of My words, doing what I tell you.”

He says it's like someone who dug deep. I'm going to give you a pastoral admonition. I want 2023 to be, for you — you online, as well. I want it to be a year that you dig deep and build your life, build your house, build your business, build your family, build your relationships on a strong foundation. Build it deep.

Have you ever noticed this? We can't schedule calamities. Have you ever noticed that? Have you ever noticed that you can't schedule moments of temptation?

“Yeah, you know what? I think I'm going to wait for that moment of temptation until about 6:03. That's what I'm going to do.”

It doesn't work that way, does it? You know that, and I know that. But can I tell you something? We can dig deep. That's what we can do. We can dig deep. Nobody can keep you from that. And you know this, and I know this: A sound building is time consuming. There are no quick fixes for proper foundations. Now, I want to take a moment here because I want to go here to Proverbs. Solomon writes the book of Proverbs. Solomon is the wisest man that has ever lived. Solomon knows what it's like to not follow God's Word, and he writes to his son. He says, “Son, listen to me. Listen to your dad. I made a lot of bad decisions in life. I've done a lot of things that I shouldn't have done. I want you to understand that what God says to you is wisdom that you should go after more than you would go after gold, more than you would go after silver, more than you would go after precious stones. Go after what God has said because, son, I'm telling you, it's true. I've done it my way, and I've eaten a lot of bitter herbs. I want you to listen to me, son. Son, there are going to be many, many times in your life that things are going to seem right to you. You're going to feel them, you're going to think them, and they're going to be things that you just hold onto. ‘This is what I want for me.’ Son, listen to me. There are going to be ways that seem right, but I'm telling you, they don't end up in a good place.”

It's the same thing Jesus is saying. What are we going to build on? Eugene Peterson says it a lot rougher than I would say it in his Message Bible, which is a paraphrase. It's not a literal translation, it does not reflect the Hebrew, but I want to read it to you because I think it's a sobering rendition of this passage.

He says, “Son, there's a way of life that looks harmless enough; look again — it leads straight to hell. Sure, those people appear to be having a good time, but all that laughter will end in heartbreak.”

Jesus says, “Why do you call me ‘Lord’ and not do what I tell you? Do you think I'm telling you that to hurt you? I'm telling you that to help you because I don't want you to look back, one day, and see the ruin of the things that you built that they didn't last.”

Paul says it this way to the Corinthians who think they know everything. He's trying to tell them to follow the wisdom of God. He's telling them to listen to what God says. He says to them, ‘The natural person,” — in other words, you and I, naturally, there's nothing about you and I that wants to accept anything from the Spirit of God because it all seems to be foolish, but it's not.

He says, “This person can't actually understand them at all because the only way you can understand it is that they are spiritually discerned.”

Now, here's what I want to do. I want you to look around. I want you all to be honest. If the cameras, somehow, that show online can maybe give us a little bit of visual here, I want you to be honest. If you are a person that can say, “I know, in my life, I have done things that were contrary to God's Word, and it has cost me in my life, would you be bold enough to put your hand up so that we could all see this? I want you to look. Look around the room. This isn't Chip Bennett. This isn't Grace Community Church. This is real life world here. We're saying we know that we've done things in our life that God told us not to do, and we wish we wouldn't have done them. You can put your hands down.

So, my last point. This is why I said what I was going to say. Therefore, we unashamedly preach and teach the Word of God here at Grace because I don't want any more of your hands to go up ever again. I don't want those hands to go up. I don't want to see you in the hub, in tears, telling me how your life has fallen apart because when the attack came, you weren't prepared. You hadn't done your work over and over and over and over again. You hadn't dug deep to have a default. That’s why I'm going to tell you something right now. You may not know your pastor very well. I'm not here to grow a big church. I'm not here to see how fast we can be in the Top 100 in Outreach Magazine. I'm here for one reason. I am here to do everything I can, every time I get to speak, to truly teach and preach the Word of God in a way that makes sense to people so that you can find the things for your life, that lead you into a relationship with God that makes your life better than what it was before you met Jesus. That’s why I can say, with Paul, assuredly, “Him we proclaim.”

Who? Jesus. That's who we proclaim around here. Listen, I’m warning everyone. Sometimes you may go, “Chip, you’re a little strong.”

Yes. Because sometimes you’ve got to say, “Stop.”

I love you. I'm not trying to control you. I'm telling you to stop. Other times, you teach. You do it with all wisdom, for one reason. You want to make sure that everyone is presented mature in Christ. That's my heart as your pastor. I want to make sure you are prepared so that, one day, when I stand before the Lord, He says, “Chip, you were a pastor that helped teach my people, and gave them tools for their toolbox so that they could walk in maturity as a Christian.”

That’s my heart. My heart for this church is to never, ever, ever lose why we are here. Every year, I read a story. I will read it every year. I'll never stop reading it. One day, I'll be dead and gone, and everybody will be like, “Well, he's not reading that story again. Praise God.”

But it's important to me that we read this, it's important for me. It’s important for our church. I just want you to hear it because it's who we are, and it’s what we're going to do.

“On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a crude little life-saving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat. But the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought for themselves went out day and night tirelessly searching for the lost. Many lives were saved by this wonderful little station, so it became famous. Some of those who were saved, and various others in the surrounding area, wanted to become associated with the station and give their time and money and effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought, and new crews trained. The little life-saving station grew.

“Some of the members of the life-saving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea. They replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged building.

“Now the life-saving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they decorated it beautifully, and furnished it exquisitely, because they used it as sort of a club. Fewer members were now interested in going to sea on life-saving missions, so they hired lifeboat crews to do this work. The life-saving motif still prevailed in this club’s decoration, and there was a liturgical lifeboat in the room where the club initiations were held.

“About this time, a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boatloads of cold, wet and half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick, and they had all kinds of different skin. The beautiful new club was in chaos. So, the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwrecks could be cleaned up before coming inside.

“At the next meeting, there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s life-saving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. Some members insisted upon lifesaving as their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a life-saving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save lives of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own life-saving station down the coast. So they did.

“As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It evolved into a club, and yet another lifesaving station was founded. History continued to repeat itself, and if you visit that seacoast today, you will find a number of exclusive clubs along the shore. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown.”

Folks, the church is the light in a community. If we're not pointing people to Jesus, and we're not training people, once they find Jesus, to be equipped to walk in maturity, we're blowing it. I want you to know, as your pastor, that as long as I'm here, we will always remain a life-saving station. We will bring in anybody from anywhere, no matter where they've come from, and we will introduce them to Jesus, we will train them, and equip them to live a mature life because we exist to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. The winds are going to come, the storm's going to come, the rain's going to come, but the question I would ask you is, are you willing to dig deep so that, as my karate instructor said, “Chip, the reason we go over this and over this and over this is so that you have a default.”

As your pastor — listen to me — I want you to be so equipped that, when the day comes that you could put your hand up again if you had failed, if you had not listened to what God said, but you won't put that hand up again because the default will be that you know what God has called you to do, and you've thought through that. When that day comes, you stand. I want that for you.

God is faithful. He will be faithful to every promise He has said to you and me. He will be faithful to everything we cling to that we don't understand. He will be faithful when we walk by faith rather than walking by sight. Because He is the God who keeps His covenant, He is the God who is faithful to His people, and He is the God who sent His Son to die on a cross, and rise again on the third day, so that we could have everlasting life in the forgiveness of sins. That is the greatest message. It's the message that the people around here need to hear, and we have to stay focused.

Keep learning

Learn about our Discover Classes and Grace University. Browse through topical short video series, view interviews with Christian thought leaders, or take an in-depth systematic theology video class with Pastor Chip.