I remember when I was growing up a particular year in which our county had endured one of the longest stretches of severe weather outbreaks. It seemed like every other night that we were huddling down in the closet with blankets and pillows while it was pitch-black outside with a still hush and the haunting roar of the tornado sirens in the distance. I was absolutely petrified by storms, and one of those nights I had asked a question of my parents that hopefully was going to squelch my fears. I asked “Tornados can’t break brick houses, can they?” I simply remember my mother telling me something like “No, I don’t think so, but we need to be in here just in case.” But the tone of voice she used left me unsure. I think I knew that she was simply trying to keep me calm.

When I became an adult, some of the jobs I held required me to have knowledge of how houses are constructed. When a brick house is built, the brick is simply what they call a “veneer”; a layer built onto another layer of plywood with the main skeleton of the house being wood also. This means that the house is not entirely brick, but that it simply has the appearance of being a brick home. Yes, brick is a very tough substance and resilient; but not a single layer can keep a tornado from deconstructing what’s behind it. Now I know why my parents couldn’t give me a firm, secure, definite answer. They knew that then, and I know it now.

When people live their lives as those who can portray religion by their actions, their hobbies, their morality, their political views and other such things, they can appear to be a solid, well -constructed brick home. The danger, however, is that it could be just a veneer. A mask to give just that; an appearance of piety and devotion, but nothing secure, deep, and sound.

That was the Pharisee’s problem, the Scribe’s vice, even the Sadducee’s Achille’s heel. They all had one thing in common, despite their plethora of abilities and skills–a veneer of devotion and piety. They prayed wordy-prayers on street corners, they tithed all of what they got, they ensured that everyone saw their devotion by publicly demonstrating it to be seen, they would even strain out unclean insects from their drink and food to ensure they were obedient. Their diligence to the Scripture was so thorough, they would master it, defend it, and apply it. But they missed one, crucial detail:

They failed to recognize their own need for grace

Grace is the house that is built entirely of not only brick, but granite; impenetrable granite. The walls are granite, the ceiling is granite, the floors are granite, even the foundation consists of a 10 foot deep granite pillar system buried in stone. Trusting in self is the house made with 2×4’s, 6×8’s and a slab of concrete on shifting sand; and don’t forget the veneer of brick just to make sure it appears sturdy and strong.

Application: Are you trusting in your own abilities, skills, works, good deeds, knowledge to earn favor with God? Are you being the pretender, and keeping up appearances but inwardly are filled with pride, envy, jealousy, outbursts of anger…etc? Are you sincerely obedient to God’s Word out of a heart of humility and brokenness over your awareness of sin in your life?

Don’t trust yourself. Trust Christ.

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