Build on the Rock!

How would the house you are living in stand up to “the big one” that earthquake experts tell us is coming? Is it built to survive extreme weather conditions? In Matthew 7 24–29 Jesus concludes his Sermon on the Mount by telling a story about two houses.

Build on the right foundation. Jesus contrasts hearing and doing with hearing and not doing. Both the wise and the foolish man hear Christ’s words. That was true of the immediate audience, and continues to be true today. The distinguishing mark is whether or not they put his words into practice, whether or not they do what he tells them to do. Your response of faith must be a faith that is obedient, a faith that works. Anything less is an empty, hypocritical profession. As Jesus concludes his sermon he wants you to respond, not just with a nod saying, “That was interesting,” but with doing something. He wants you to put his words into practice. “This powerful image. . . retained its function as the striking conclusion to a challenging discourse which has left Jesus’ hearers with a simple but demanding choice: to hear and ignore, or to hear and put into practice. It is a make-or-break choice with eternal consequences. And as we noted in v. 21, it is Jesus himself who is the key to this choice; it is his words (and not, as one might have expected, God’s words) which must be done. Indeed, to do Jesus’ words here seems to be the equivalent of ‘doing the will of my Father in heaven’ in v. 21. To ignore his words, therefore will result in total spiritual disaster.” (R. t. France, The Gospel of Matthew, p. 296).

Only the house built on the rock endures. Jesus concludes the Sermon on the Mount with a little parable that underscores the importance of obedience, the importance of living as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. The wise man (who hears and puts into practice what Jesus says) is like one building his house on a rock-solid foundation. The hurricane may blow, the floods may come, but the house stands firm. The vindication in the storm says something about justification. It is not empty professors, but those who do the Father’s will who will be declared righteous in the last day. The foolish man (who fails to put Jesus’ words into practice) is like a man who builds on a sandy foundation. His house crashes down as the storm begins to beat on it. As you hear Ezekiel 13, recognize that the raging waters are an indication of God’s coming on those who have only a verbal and superficial relationship to him. Perhaps you remember singing about the wise man and the foolish man, and think of this as a children’s story. But it speaks to you regardless of age. There is no middle ground. Either your house stands, or it crashes down.

Respond to the King! Jesus speaks with authority. The authority of his words contrasted with the teaching of the scribes. The scribes cited traditional authorities, the pronouncements of earlier rabbis. Contrast that with Jesus’ repeated, “I tell you,” Matthew 5:18, 20, 22, 28, 32, 34, etc. Jesus is conscious of being the Messianic King. Jesus is not simply a teacher among other teachers. Rather, he is the King who calls you to covenantal trust and obedience.

Build on the Rock! Jesus is not teaching a works salvation. It was the scribes and Pharisees who taught salvation by keeping the works of the law. Jesus calls you to trust in him. But that trust is never an empty faith, a depending on him that is void of obedience. You cannot put his words into practice apart from the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit in calling you to himself and enabling you to do the good works that God has foreordained for you to do. Look back through the Sermon on the Mount, and ask yourself how you can put Jesus’ words into practice. What is your reaction when you, as a believer, or the church as a whole, faces opposition? Is your first reaction as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, or as a citizen of the United States? How much kindness do you show towards those who may be different from you? Are you concerned to reflect the kindness of your heavenly Father? Do you reflect his justice, even when it may not be you who are oppressed? In the midst of the health and economic challenges, are you resting in the care of the Father, or are you consuming yourself with worry? Are you asking him for what you need? Your works are never the basis of your salvation. But if you are not doing the words of Jesus, your foundation is sand. The very imagery of vindication in the storm and flood recalls the deliverance that God provides his people in the Old Testament. Look at Deuteronomy 32:18, 30, 31; Psalm 28:1; 40:2; 1 Corinthians 10:1–4; 1 Peter 2:4. The language of the storm points you to the final judgment. But Jesus’ call to build on the true Rock applies today. He is the one who gives hope and confidence in a troubled world that may seem to be spinning out of control. The faulty foundation of the foolish reminds you of the chaff-like character of the ungodly. The deliverance in the storm comes from God. But it comes precisely as you trust in the Messianic King and live as a citizen of his kingdom. Apart from that you have no grounds for expecting the Lord’s deliverance.

Whether or not the house you live in would stand up to a storm or earthquake, be sure that your life is built on the only foundation–the Lord Jesus Christ. As you trust him, don’t just listen, put his words into practice.

About jwm

I serve as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Newberg, Oregon.
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