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).

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Doing the Father’s Will

What does doing God’s will look like in the Christian life? Pay attention to what Jesus says in Matthew 7:21–23.

Lip service is not enough. Merely saying “Lord, Lord,” is inadequate. Jesus does not hesitate to talk about judgment. The broad road leads to destruction. The reference to unfruitful trees being chopped down and thrown into the fire introduced you to the setting of judgment, v. 19. Now the imagery is dropped, but Jesus describes what will happen on that great, dreadful day. Many will claim Christ as Lord, and will even cite spectacular deeds they have done: prophecy, casting out of demons, and performing many miracles. Deception is taking place on a number of levels. In the judgment, the final effort is to persuade the Judge that they are something they are not. They are attempting to deceive the searcher of hearts. Certainly their efforts may have deceived others. Hypocrisy is a problem in the church. Perhaps most tragically, they deceive themselves into thinking they belong to the Lord. That is one of the reasons that Christ calls his church to exercise church discipline. We need one another’s help to see that our lives are failing to sync with the confession we have made. We need one another to encourage us in our walk with the Lord.

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Thornbushes and Grapes

An easy way to recognize a tree is by its fruit, as Jesus reminds you in Matthew 7:15–20.

Recognize a tree by its fruit. Beware of false prophets. The broad way is promoted by false teachers. False prophets are deceptive. They are like wolves in sheep’s wool. They appear harmless, or even beneficial, but their impact is devastating. They may come to you door appearing as sincere students of the Bible. They may enter your home through radio or television waves, claiming to preach Christ, but denying crucial aspects of the Word of God. They may be leaders in prominent religious groups. False prophets mute God’s message. They may be self-serving, see Matthew 23:1-4, 13ff. They may simply downplay the truth because it is unpopular, Jeremiah 8:11.

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Take the Road that Leads to Life

We tend to avoid sticking out (do you want to be the only person at the dinner who thought the dress code was casual?). In Matthew 7:13–14 Jesus calls you to be different—and there are eternal consequences to the choices you make.

Beware of the wide gate. The broad road is attractive. By nature we like the broad, easy road. The wide gate attracts. It is the path of least resistance. Not surprisingly, this broad road is popular. What Jesus calls blessed in the Beatitudes is not what the world finds attractive. Jesus is emphasizing the antithesis between the kingdom and the world. One of the best commentaries on what Jesus is laying out here is Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.

The wide gate leads to destruction. The wide gate and broad road have a destination. It is destruction. Destruction is more than financial or social ruin. It is certainly far more serious than the embarrassment of standing out in a crowd. Ultimately it is eternal ruin, separation from God. It is the death of which God warned Adam and Eve in the Garden. The ungodly, whose way is warned against in Psalm 1, ultimately are like the chaff, blown away by the wind. “To such an eschatalogical death-apoleia (‘perdition’ [or ‘destruction’]) refer Matt. 7: 12; 10:28; John 17:12. This of course describes far more than a state of alienation from God. It expresses the absolute, eternal ruin awaiting the evil-doers at the end.” (Geerhardus Vos, The Self-Disclosure of Jesus, p. 265). As popular as the attractions of the broad road are, they fail to lead to the proper destination. The Sermon on the Mount begins with tenderness, with Christ blessing the poor in spirit. But it concludes with a series of warnings. Rejection of the King has consequences!

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The Golden Rule

What is the right thing to do? In Matthew 7:12 Jesus gives you a brief standard, called the Golden Rule, which is always available for you to use.

Do to others what you would have them do to you. Jesus gives the Golden Rule. This principle is found in other religions, usually in negative form. Hillel, the outstanding rabbi in the first century BC, was challenged by a pagan Gentile, “teach me the whole Torah while I am standing on one leg.” Hillel’s younger contemporary, Rabbi Shammai, dismissed the challenge. Hallel responded, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.” The Gentile converted to Judaism. Earlier Confucius said, “Do nothing to your neighbor which afterward you would not have your neighbor do to you.” The bare negative is certainly far less than what Jesus teaches. Doing nothing at all might satisfy that form, although it is probably not fair to assume that the negative does not expect the positive as well. This is not a principle that equalizes all religions. What Jesus says is profoundly deeper than what other teachers said. Too often people treat this simply as a principle to use because it works. But Jesus ties it in with the attitude and actions of your Father in heaven. No other religious teacher who proclaimed some form of this saying gave his life as a sacrifice in place of his followers. Look at the context!

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