1 September 2013
24 "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.
26 "But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."
28 And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, 29 for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. (Matthew 7:24-29, ESV)
Live with purpose
Begin with the end in mind
Put first things first.
These are the first 3 of "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People", a book that has sold 25 million copies, and they are all represented in these 6 verses.
We have finally come to the last lesson from the Sermon on the Mount. This has been a half-year trek through three chapters of the Bible. At least that is one perspective of what we have done. Though you could have this perspective and be critical of the time spent in the text I believe that we should take a different perspective, that is: We have spent seven months unpacking the core of Jesus' teaching so that we can now spend the rest of our lives trying to do it. Jesus claims the teaching of this one sermon as foundational. If you understand His purpose, then you also understand yours. And once you understand your purpose you must choose what kind of life will achieve it, and what will be its end. Finally with any purpose or goal, we must prioritize; put first things first, and put some things away altogether.
Below we cover the content of this passage, but we must note here that this is the summary statement of Jesus. The phrase that we have, "these words of mine," references the entire Sermon, all three chapters. All throughout this series we have reviewed what has been taught before, but I think there is no better place to do that than the beginning of this lesson. First, because this is the summary application section (note the word therefore in verse 24) and, second, because the verse that immediately follows the text points to the nature of the teacher of the Sermon. Verse 29 states that the crowds were astonished and noticed that Jesus had authority, and not as their scribes. The connection of these two thoughts brings together all of the Sermon on the Mount as well as the teaching of Jesus. This is not the last time that we will see Matthew speak about Jesus' authority. In the Great Commission we also find the authority of Jesus. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (Matthew 28:18). He is a great teacher because He is divine. This means that when we listen to the Sermon on the Mount we are hearing the best teaching there could be and therefore must strive to accomplish what it has for us.
As we look at the allusion to the two foundations we must keep in mind that Jesus is giving us two paths to live our lives. The wise path is the followed by the one that respects His authority and hears and does these words of mine. The foolish path is the followed by the one who ignores these words either wholly or partially. This lesson is intended to encourage all of us to follow the wise path and build a foundation on Jesus Christ.
Don't Live in the House of Folly
This text clearly presents two different houses: one that is wise and one that is foolish. Before we look at the differences between these two homes we must see what is common in both allusions. First, we notice that both are homes or houses. When we read this we must think of our house or home. For many the house is the place where much time is spent away from work and with the family. Once the work day is over it is the location to which the family returns. As such, it becomes a place from which we find rest, love, enjoyment, encouragement from family members, and it becomes the launching point for more days of work. This is why we call it a home sometimes instead of just a house. It is the place where we start and finish each day. So what we have in mind in this text is a place that represents the way in which we live.
This is not the only place in the Bible where the connection between our household and our living is found. In the Old Testament we find this connection especially in reference to the Law. A transgression of the Law meant not only punishment for the lawbreaker, but for his family too. Ezra 6:11 provides a vivid example of this thought: Also I make a decree that if anyone alters this edict, a beam shall be pulled out of his house, and he shall be impaled on it, and his house shall be made a dunghill. Needless to say that the way in which we live affects our homes, which means our families. This is why one of the qualifications for leadership in the church is related to the home: He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? (1 Timothy 3:4-5). How we live is directly related to our home, which is why Jesus uses the analogy of the building of a house in this passage. In fact the manner in which we live our lives functions as a foundation for our homes. In short, conforming to Jesus' message is wise and ignoring it is foolish.
The picture that Jesus provides for a foolish way of living is a house built upon sand. Now at first thought this may not seem like a bad idea. Sure we do not want to keep dragging sand into our homes, but we can deal with that if the view is worth it. After every Hurricane and every flood we look at the ruin and wonder why so many people lived in harm's way? For when the rains come and floods afterwards we soon find that his house that was built upon sand has had its foundation destroyed and without a firm foundation the entire house is ruined. This picture is a simple way to see the foolishness of our lives. Just like we would tell people not build a house in a flood plane we need to remind ourselves that we must not build our spiritual lives on something that will not endure.
So the obvious question is, what are the false foundations upon which we build our lives? What is the sand? The answer to that will be different from person to person, but in short we can say that anything that would not fit into the life picture Jesus paints in the Sermon on the Mount would be sand. For instance, if we are self-reliant we are building upon sand. For when things are going well we are good, but when struggles ensue we worry and fret and have nothing to trust in but ourselves and ultimately implode. Another "sand" could be our outward righteousness. We believe that because we come to church, tithe, and attend other churchly functions we will be blessed and/or saved. However, the Sermon clearly points out that these actions of outward righteousness only reward us momentarily and may even leave us saying "lord, lord" and hearing in return "depart…" We must strive to stay away from the "sand" in our lives and the only way to do that is to make sure our foundation is built on the rock.
Live in the House of Wisdom
The wise thing for any of us to do is to live in the house of wisdom. Notice this is not the house of knowledge, though that is important, it is wisdom (applied knowledge) that we must seek. In this particular picture we see that the wise person is building their house upon the rock. The rock here is a firm, solid foundation, for when we know that the house has a solid foundation we know that the house will stand.
If you have ever gone shopping for a home you know (or should know) that the foundation is one of the things to pay attention to, especially here in Texas. With the nature of our soil and the extreme weather often we find that foundations shift and crack, which causes great problems for the house. So when you are looking over a house you need to look for cracks in walls to see if there is a bigger foundation problem. If there is you may want to reconsider buying the home. Foundations matter greatly for our physical houses.
We also know that foundations are greatly important for our spiritual houses. We need to find a rock upon which to build our spiritual house. Jesus lets us know that the foundation we need is found in a life that is hearing and doing the things He has told us. This means that we are living out the principles of the Sermon on the Mount. We are seeking true blessings, we are striving to be salt and light, we acknowledge that we must keep the Law that is written on our hearts, we practice our righteousness for God alone and ultimately we live lives by the Golden Rule, and most of all begin with conversion to become a follower of Jesus.
Throughout the Bible God has been telling us about the foundation we are to have in His Son.
Psalm 118:22—The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
Isaiah 28:16—therefore thus says the Lord God,
"Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion,
a stone, a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation:
'Whoever believes will not be in haste.'
Acts 4:11—This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
1 Peter 2:4-?—
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Sandcastles can be cool, but everyone understands that they are temporary. We don't live in sandcastles because we know that eventually the storm will come. Only a strong dwelling with the right foundation endures through the storms of life.