Text: Matthew 7:24-27
Introduction: If this is your first time visiting with us here at River Ridge Church, we’re now in our 6th message in a preaching series called “Why Jesus?” This is our attempt to provide some insight into the popularity and prominence of Jesus and His message. To put it another way: Why would an obscure carpenter from a small town in the Middle East be able to build a world-wide movement that has shaped the lives of billions over the last two thousand years? It’s a fair question and it deserves an answer. If you’re interested in hearing any of the previous five responses to this question, you can do so at our website at www.riverridgewi.com. Just click on the heading “sermons” and you can listen to them.
Now our passage for this morning we’re going to consider a 6th reason why people follow Jesus. It is because He is the greatest teacher and preacher of truth to ever live. And the greatest sermon He ever preached is called the Sermon on the Mount. Listen to what our 33rd President, Harry S. Truman, had to say about it: “I do not believe there is a problem in this country or the world today which could not be settled if approached through the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount.” That’s a pretty good endorsement for a message given by Jesus to a crowd of people near the Sea of Galilee. In it He describes what a true Christian is like and how blessed he is by God for living a life that meets with His approval. Jesus’ teaching begins with the beatitudes (blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, and so forth) and ends with the golden rule…do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It’s a powerful teaching and it demands a response. So in the conclusion of His sermon, Jesus then does what most pastors are trained to do — that is — He works to bring His audience to a point of decision about all that He has taught them. Our Lord does this by first talking about two gates (Matthew 7:13-14 – Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many). Then He mentions two trees (a healthy tree bears good fruit; a diseased tree bears bad fruit). He moves on to two workers (a worker of righteousness and a worker of lawlessness). And in each case, Jesus is asking the people to decide which kind of person they most want to be. He then wraps it up with a short parable about two builders. And that’s where we’re going to focus the rest of our time. It goes like this: Matthew 7:24-27 — “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.” Just like His other three closing illustrations, this one is also meant to move his “spiritually-interested” audience either left or right of center, depending on your viewpoint. So it’s important to note that Jesus was not speaking to people who would have considered themselves unbelievers, but to devout Jews who were very attracted to His message and wanted to hear more from Him. I think it’s safe to say that these people would be church-going people today who would be taking notes on the message. And so, to this very interested group of listeners, He told this concluding parable as a challenge for each to do more than give Him lip-service, but to actually follow His teaching. It starts with two builders who shared at least a couple of things in common.
- They wanted the same thing — They each wanted to build a house. Now in this parable the house represents a fruitful and abundant life like the one Jesus describes in John 10:10b — I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly. This is what most people really want. Young men and women don’t start off in life thinking about how mediocre and insignificant they can become. That’s because God put into us a desire for impact and meaning. And the two builders in Jesus’ story both wanted the same thing. Now just a quick note here. The term for “house” in the Bible can have many applications. It can refer to your own life (2 Kings 20:1 — God speaking to King Hezekiah — set your house in order, for you shall die), your family (Joshua 24:15 — as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord), your place of worship (Exodus 23:19 — the house of the Lord thy God) or even your country (Jeremiah 12:7 — speaking of Israel — I will forsake my house, abandon my inheritance; I will give the one I love into the hands of her enemies). Application: So it seems to me that the Lord is addressing a few things that are very close to our hearts. Who here doesn’t want what is best for ourselves, our families, our church and our country? In the great political debates of our day, I hear no one saying that they hate America and hope we’ll disband as a nation. Every viewpoint that we hold is about how we can make it even better for all of us. At least we can all agree on that! And so the parable begins with agreement as well. We have two builders who want the same thing.
- They shared the same blueprint — What am I talking about? Jesus tells us that each heard the words of Christ on how to build their houses. After all, they had just listened to His sermon about the kingdom of God and the behavioral norms for those who inhabit it. This was the best teaching that anyone could possibly have been exposed to, and they were there to hear it all! Think about it. It was the Living Word (Jesus) expounding on the written Word (the Scriptures). So each builder had the benefit of getting the same instructions. It was real, undiluted, life-changing truth from the One who embodied it (I am the way, the truth and the life — John 14:6). Last week someone paid me a compliment. A friend told me that she could listen to me preach all day. In fact, she told me that each message I give is better than the next. Strike that … I meant the last one. I know she said it to encourage me, and it did, but I cannot imagine that anyone here would argue that my teaching of the Word surpasses that of our Lord, who through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit inspired it in the first place. So Jesus shared with them the pathway to life and both builders were there to hear what He had to say. Summary: Two builders have this is common. They wanted the same thing and shared the same blueprint for how to get it. But they also had some differences starting with their respective characters.
Two characters. They both heard Jesus, but they didn’t agree on what to do about it. And here’s the reason for their different perspectives.
- One was wise. Wisdom is the ability to apply spiritual truth to life’s decisions. Listen to what the Bible says about it: (1) The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom — Psalm 111:10. This means that the starting point for acquiring wisdom is found in showing God His proper due and respect; (2) The Lord gives wisdom and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding — Proverbs 2:6 (NASB). He is the source of wisdom and there is no other. (3) If anyone lacks wisdom let him ask of God who gives to all men generously and without reproach and it will be given him — James 1:5. God is ready and willing to give wisdom to those who ask for it so long as the request is made in faith. The first man mentioned in the parable chose to build his house the right way, in obedience to Christ’s teaching, because that’s the wisest decision anyone can make.
- One was foolish. This has nothing to do with a person’s mental capacity. We’ve all known people with many years of college and post-college who are foolish. By the way, from the word “foolish” we get our word “moron“. It refers to someone who is dull or stupid, who is a moral blockhead. Foolishness is the refusal to apply Christ’s teaching to life’s choices. And that was the major difference between the two builders. Here’s what the Bible says about a fool. (1) A fool says in his heart, “There is no God” — Psalm 14:1; (2) The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to counsel — Proverbs 12:15; (3) Wisdom is too high for a fool; in the assembly at the gate he has nothing to say — Proverbs 24:7. Not very complimentary verses, are they? JOKE: Did you hear about the fool who decided to start a chicken farm? He bought a hundred chickens to start and then a month later returned to purchase another hundred because the first ones had died. A month later he was back to buy another hundred chickens because the second group had died as well. He said to the fellow selling the chickens, “I figured out where I went wrong. I’m pretty sure I’ve been planting them too deep.” So far, then, we have two builders who wanted the same thing and shared the same blueprint, but unfortunately they had two different characters…one was wise, the other a fool.
Two foundations — A foundation is where you start when erecting a building. It is the part of the house that is not seen. It’s underground, but it makes a real difference because it is what stabilizes the structure above it and keeps it upright. Without one, when dangerous weather strikes, a home can be battered and destroyed by high winds and water. We saw an example of this in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and a few other states this past week. Now in Jesus’ parable, each of the men built an a different foundation.
- The wise man built his house on the rock. In the Middle East, as in many other countries in very hot climates, rock is the best foundation for a building. It does not move when inclement weather comes. Here in America, most homes have one made of concrete because it’s just as hard and easier than trying to find a solid rock. In any case, we need to understand that Jesus is not providing a lesson on geology, but He’s actually talking about a man who decided to build his life on God’s Word. So he not only listened to the Sermon on the Mount as many others did, but he determined to obey it, and just for the simple reason that he believed it was the best foundation for life.
- The foolish man who built his house on the sand. He could not be bothered with something as trivial as a solid foundation, and so rushed the process. Rather than dig deep until he reached rock, he opted to build his house on shifting sands. This is the Lord’s way of saying that this fellow was disobedient to the teaching of Christ. It’s not that he didn’t hear it. Many people hear the Bible. Unfortunately for some, they just choose not to follow it.
Two outcomes — They faced the same storm but with far different results. By the way, it took a powerful storm to reveal the true nature of their foundations. As long as everything was sunny and bright, neither builder had much to worry about. But when the rain fell, the floods came and the wind blew, they experienced to very different outcomes. And that’s the way it is with us in life. You only discover what your core beliefs are when the storms come. It’s in these moments of great testing that the foundation for your life becomes apparent to everyone else. So what happens in Jesus’ parable to these two houses?
- One remained standing — 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 of the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. And He is the rock that never fails us. Illustration: I read this week that the Island of Manhattan consists almost entirely of bare granite, a very hard and strong type of rock. To carry the weight of a 75-100 story skyscraper, builders use foundation anchors called “piles“. They are concrete or steel columns hammered into the ground until they penetrate solid rock. For especially tall buildings, some piles are driven 25 stories below ground. The heavy weight of the skyscraper is then distributed to each of the piles. Together they support the enormous weight of the building. If in the building of a skyscraper these piles are drilled or driven in poorly, cracks will eventually appear in the structure above ground. When this happens they must be torn down or lifted completely so that the piles can be reset — a very costly and time-consuming process. In the same way, unless a person builds his life on the teaching of Christ, he will soon discover that he must pay a high price for his foolishness. This is what happened to the second man.
- One fell apart — 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. In other words, it was a total collapse. Application: In heaven there will most likely be no storms, and even if there are, they will not threaten our foundations in any way. But in this life, it’s not always going to be sunny and pleasant. Stormy weather is inevitable because our world and everyone in it has been corrupted by sin. So bad things are going to happen. If you’re not facing inclement weather in your life right now, you are probably going to soon. So it’s very important that your foundation is set before the next hurricane in your life. If you wait until the winds are blowing and the rain is falling, it will be too late. Summary: So far we’ve talked about two builders (who wanted the same thing and shared the same blueprint); two characters (one was wise, the other foolish); two foundations (on built on the rock of Jesus and the other on shifting sands); and two outcomes (one remained standing, the other fell apart). Now let’s finish where Jesus does — with two choices.
- The hard way — This involves building your house by following the words of Christ. Whether it is your life, your family, your church or your country, everyone does better when we operate in obedience to the teachings of Christ. But following His Word isn’t always the easiest of journeys. It requires that we frequently swim upstream and stand against the moral drift of our culture. And the only way we’re going to do that is to dig deep in our spiritual lives, and build our foundation on the Rock Himself — Jesus. Then when the storms come, and we know they will, we will not be moved off of our convictions, but remained steadfast by standing on the rock.
- The easy way — This is what a lot of people choose. They build their houses on unstable sand — the ways of the world. You might be thinking, “Well this can’t be me. I go to church.” Listen, you can go to church, be in a Bible study and even teach the people of God and still choose to live in disobedience to Christ. And here’s the scariest thing of all. Only the time of testing will reveal where your trust really lies. And that’s when may well have to decide if you have the courage to separate yourself from the world and choose life with Christ.
Conclusion: On July 20, 1993, while cutting down oak trees alone in a Pennsylvania forest, Don Wyman got his leg pinned beneath a fallen tree. Unfortunately for him, no one was around to hear his cries for help. After digging for more than an hour to try to free his bleeding and shattered leg but to no avail, he realized he had a choice to make. Either he could lie back, relax and bleed out or he could muster the courage to do things the hard way. So Wyman made his decision. Using a wrench and the starter cord from his chain saw as a tourniquet, he somehow managed to amputate his own leg below the knee with his pocket knife. HIs ordeal wasn’t over however, because, then he had to crawl to his truck and drive to a nearby farmer’s house. Only then was he able to get the help that saved his life. Sometimes in life the right choice is the hard choice. Like Don Wyman who chose the hard way to live, Jesus calls us to make a similar decision about our own lives. Will we surrender to the weight of the world and it’s teachings knowing that in the end it will cost us our lives? Or will we sever our ties with it, choose to follow Christ and His teachings and in the process save our lives? Sooner or later, it comes down to this for all of us. We must decide between the hard way and the easy way. One leads to life, the other to death. Which one will you choose?