Some of you remember the bad weather we had a few weeks ago, with all the high winds, and a tornado in the area, and the downpour of rain we got — several inches in very short period of time. They put out several weather advisories, including a tornado warning, and also a flood advisory. Cheryl & I were actually on the way to church the Wednesday the tornado warning sounded on our phones — and we looked around at the sky and said, “Well, we don’t see anything …” and just kept on going (that is NOT the wisest course of action to take, by the way!). We did keep on the alert for a tornado, but one thing I did NOT worry about that day was our house flooding. Some of you know we live at the end of a cul-de-sac off of Hwy 70 east of Morganton, and it is situated up on hill. The street drops way downhill from our house and is much lower at the other end — there is a little creek down there; I might worry if I lived there — but our house is set up on high in a safe place from any floods which might come against us.
It is good to have that kind of peace of mind about the security of your house. But it is even more important to be certain about your “spiritual house,” and the storms which might come against you spiritually. And that is what Jesus talks about in this passage. As He brings this Sermon on the Mount to a close, He says there are two kinds of “spiritual houses” you can have: either a house built on the rock, or a house built on the sand. He shows us the importance of having your house “built on the rock” spiritually — and He also teaches us exactly what that means.
I. THE STORMS ON THE HOUSE ON THE ROCK
One of the things we should notice in this passage is that the storms we see here, were the same for BOTH of these houses:
— What does Jesus say in :25 happened to the house built on the sand? He says: “The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew.”
— And what did He say in :27 happened to the house built on the rock?
He said: “The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew.”
He tells us the SAME trials came to both of them: BOTH of them had rain; BOTH of them had floods, and BOTH of them had winds.
So one of the things we should learn from this is that you are NOT somehow “exempt” from the trials of life if you build your house on the rock. It is NOT like: “OK, now that you are a Christian, nothing bad is going to happen to you.” Quite honestly, most of you have probably figured that out by now, right? As a Christian, you will still get sick; you will still have problems with your job or marriage or kids; you still have “rain and floods and wind.”
If you DON’T know this already, you need get it today: the message of Christianity is NOT “just ask Jesus into your heart” and everything will be smooth and easy from this day forward. That is a false gospel, and you are setting yourself and others up for bitter disappointment if that is your message. It is not true. There is “rain and floods and wind” for EVERYONE in this life: those who build their life on the rock, as well as for those who build their life on the sand. The storms of life are common to us all.
THE DIFFERENCE IS NOT THAT YOU DON’T HAVE STORMS AS A CHRISTIAN; THE DIFFERENCE IS THAT AS A CHRISTIAN YOU HAVE A FOUNDATION THAT HOLDS YOU UP THROUGH THE STORMS!
— This last July marked the 50th anniversary of Joni Earickson Tada’s diving accident in the Chesapeake Bay in 1967, which left her paralyzed and unable to use her arms or her legs. Being a Christian did not keep Joni from becoming paralyzed, and it did not guarantee that she would be healed when she was. But she has lived these last 50 years with an amazing outlook and strength of character, and a worldwide ministry, as a quadriplegic, because her life has been built upon the rock!
— Being a Christian did not keep me from getting sick with POTS in 2012, and then losing my job and my home. But when I got sick with POTS and lost my job and my home, I had a real peace about it — I knew God had a plan and a purpose in it — because my life had been built upon the rock.
— Being a Christian did not keep our beloved brother and church family member Guy Taylor from getting Mesothelioma. But IN that mesothelioma, he has an assurance that God is with him, and he has a home in heaven no matter what, because he has built his life upon the ROCK!
In the same way, being a follower of Jesus will not keep YOU from “rain and floods and winds” and all kinds of trials in your life — but when you DO experience those things, you will have a peace, and a strength, and you will STAND and not fall, if you have built your life upon the ROCK!
II. WHAT IS “THE HOUSE ON THE ROCK”?
But we’ve got to understand just what “building your life upon the rock” IS. It doesn’t mean what a lot of people THINK it means.
Many people think that “building your house on the rock” means saying that Jesus is your Rock. People say things like: “Jesus is my rock, so I am gonna stand and not fall.” Well, saying that Jesus is your “Rock” is a great confession of faith — but that is NOT what Jesus indicates here that it means to build your life on the rock. Remember just last week we saw that Jesus said, “NOT everyone who SAYS to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” So just “SAYING” Jesus is your Lord is not “building your life on the rock.” So what DOES “building your life on the rock” mean?
We need to remember that this is a word picture that Jesus gives us here: He said in :24 that “everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts upon them may be COMPARED to a man who built his house upon the rock.” “Compared” — in other words, He’s saying, this is an illustration. And we don’t have to try to interpret the illustration, He specifically TELLS us what this means: He says the man who built his house on the rock, is an illustration of the person who “hears these words of Mine and ACTS upon them.” And He says the man who built his house on the sand is a picture of the man who “hears these words of Mine and does NOT act upon them.”
SO: BUILDING YOUR HOUSE ON THE ROCK MEANS DOING WHAT JESUS SAYS!
BUILDING YOUR HOUSE ON THE SAND MEANS NOT DOING WHAT JESUS SAYS.
The only difference here is DOING or NOT DOING what Jesus says!
I think this is important for a “church group” like we have here today to really get. Because there are a lot of people who come to church who think things like, “I’ve built MY house on the rock; I go to church every Sunday and I hear the word of the Lord! But you’ve got to understand: BOTH MEN IN THIS STORY HEARD JESUS’ WORDS!
— The difference here was NOT that one man came and listened to Jesus and the other one didn’t.
— The difference was NOT that one of them went to church and the other one didn’t.
No, Jesus says they both HEARD His words. They both might have gone to church. The difference is NOT that they didn’t both HEAR His words; the difference is that one heard and DID WHAT HE SAID, and the other also heard but did NOT do what He said.
THE TOTAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO MEN HERE IS THAT ONE DID, AND ONE DID NOT DO WHAT JESUS SAID WHEN THEY HEARD IT! “Building your life on the rock” means DOING what Jesus says!
So here at the end of the greatest sermon ever preached, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says THERE IS ONE THING YOU’VE GOT TO GET: merely “hearing” what I have just said in this message is not enough; you’ve got to DO IT!
I think it is very interesting in light of this, that the last verses of Matthew 7 say: “When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as One who had authority, and not as their scribes.”
You can just picture people leaving the Sermon on the Mount, and going out and telling people: “You should hear this Jesus; He’s not like our boring rabbis; He is an amazing teacher; He has the greatest stories; He has the best illustrations; He really makes you think.” And they could go away thinking they had really responded to Jesus’ message, when Jesus says in fact they did NOT — because He said the one who “builds his life on the rock” is not the one who hears His words and thinks they are really neat; the one who “builds his life on the rock” is the one who hears Jesus’ words and DOES them!
James 1:22-25 says “But prove yourselves DOERS of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” How is a person who hears the word “deluding himself”? Because the one who hears the word often thinks they have done what they are supposed to do, because they just listened to it; when the truth is, that is not enough. You have to DO IT!
This gets right to the heart of it for a lot of people. How many of us here in church today, walk out of services each week feeling really good about ourselves, because we were at church to hear the sermon? And we think we’re good Christians — because we were “in church.” We heard the word. But Jesus tells us plainly here: that is not enough. That will not make the difference for your life. It is not enough for you to HEAR His word; you have to DO IT!
Herod, the wicked king who lived during the time of Jesus and John the Baptist, was committing adultery with his brother’s wife, and he had John the Baptist arrested because John preached against what Herod was doing. But interestingly enough, Mark 6:20 tells us that Herod “used to enjoy listening to him.” This wicked king, living in open adultery, “enjoyed listening” to God’s word!
You know what the hard truth is? That some of us here today are no more saved than that wicked King Herod was. You might say: “But I like to come to church; I like to hear sermons” — so did HEROD, and he was one of the most wicked people in all the Bible! Being a real Christian is not about just hearing the word of God; it is about DOING it!
As we saw last week, our salvation is not based on what we do. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ’s work on the cross alone. But if you are saved by God’s grace alone, you will show the fruit of it by DOING what He says. You won’t just listen to it; you won’t just read it; you will DO IT. Very simply put: the person who “builds their life on the rock” is the person who DOES what Jesus says!
III. HOW TO BUILD YOUR HOUSE ON THE ROCK
So how do we do this? What do we “build our life on the rock” by doing what Jesus said?
Well, when Jesus was walking on earth and teaching, “building your life on the rock” meant if He told His disciples to do something, they would do it:
— When He told Matthew to leave his tax office and follow Him, “building his life on the rock” meant getting up and leaving his office and following.
— When He told the disciples to take the loaves and bread out to the multitude, “building their life on the rock” meant getting the baskets and taking the bread out. They just did what He told them to do.
But things are different today. Jesus is NOT physically present with us, giving us His commands — but He HAS given us His commands in His word. So we can still “build our house on the rock” by DOING what Jesus tells us in His word, as we read it and hear it taught.
So today if you want to “build your life on the rock;” the first thing you have to do is to read and listen to God’s word regularly, so that you know what He is telling you to do. As we have seen, JUST hearing and reading is not enough; we have to do it. But we DO need to hear and read God’s word regularly, so that we know what He is saying to us. That is the first step. We DO need to be in Bible Studies and and worship services regularly, so we can hear God’s word. We need to be committed to READ God’s word every day, so that we can know what He is telling us to do.
One of the biggest problems we have as Christians is that we are NOT consistently reading the word of God. Over 90% of us have Bibles — but many of us are not really reading them. Or if we ARE reading them, like Greg Frizzell said a few weeks ago, we are just reading like one verse in a devotional, and we are basically on a “starvation diet” of the word of God. So for some of us, the starting place is to read Jesus’ word every day. You can’t obey, and live out, what you don’t even know. This is one of the reasons why we are going to have an all-church emphasis on reading through the Bible in 2018. I don’t think a person needs to necessarily read through the Bible every year, but it is good to do it every so often. And we have a good plan we’ll be sharing that gives you readings from the Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms & Proverbs every day, so you’ll get a variety each time you read. We’ll get more information to you about that next month, but I hope you’ll be ready come January 1st to commit to reading through the Bible in 2018.
But there is also a second, and VERY IMPORTANT part to that: we are not only to “read” the Bible, but we must be committed to DO what it says. This is another whole problem that many of us have: that even those of us who DO read the Bible, are “just reading it.” No, we are not like “those other people” who don’t read the scriptures every day; we’re much more spiritual than that! WE can check off “Daily Bible reading” on OUR weekly list! But unfortunately, ALL we are doing is reading it. We are just kind of “checking it off of our list of chores” every day. We aren’t reading it to really hear the voice of God speaking to us so that we can DO what He says. We aren’t coming to the word of God like Samuel and saying, “Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.” We’ve got to read the Bible as though we were in the very presence of God, and be ready to change our life according to what we find there, and DO what it says.
Inge Harding was one of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s students in Germany in the 1930’s, and she said that Bonhoeffer told her class: “When you read the Bible, you must think that here and now God is speaking with me. … from the very beginning he taught us that we had to read the Bible as it was directed at us, as the word of God directly to us. Not something general, not something generally applicable, but rather with a personal relationship to us. He repeated this to us very early on, that the whole thing comes from that.” (Inge Karding, quoted in METAXAS, p. 129)
Bonhoeffer was exactly right: “The whole thing comes from that” — this is what “building your life on the rock” means: reading God’s word as though God were speaking right to you right then, and you are going to DO what He says!
When we read the Bible every day, we should have the mindset that Mary gave the servants at the wedding at Cana in John 2:5, “Whatever He says to you; do it!” THAT is “building your life on the rock.” “Whatever He says to you, do it!” But just listening; just reading; is NOT “building your life on the rock.”
Are you doing something about what God shows you in His word in the morning? Are you doing what He says to you through these messages we share on Sunday morning? I have to admit; I enjoy it when people tell me after the service that the message was good; every pastor wants to hear that. But the most encouraging thing of all is when someone tells me that they are DOING what I preached about.
One of our people told me recently that their prayer life has been dramatically different since we studied how to pray using the outline of the Model Prayer. THAT is what we are shooting for. That is “building your life on the rock”:
— DO what you hear in these messages.
— DO what you hear in Sunday School.
— DO what we are studying in Discipleship
— DO what we’re singing about in these songs
THAT is real success as a church. Listen, our goal as a church is NOT just to get more people coming (though I am glad when more people come); our goal is NOT just to get more new members (though I am very grateful to God for all our new members); our ultimate aim is not just to gather greater numbers of people who “enjoy” hearing words in sermons which they have no intention of applying! A CHURCH THAT GATHERS CROWDS OF PEOPLE WHO HEAR THE WORD BUT DON’T DO IT IS GOING TO BE LIKE A HOUSE THAT IS BUILT ON THE SAND! It will not stand the storms that come against it.
And in the same way, IF YOUR PERSONAL LIFE IS JUST HEARING GOD’S WORD AND NOT DOING IT, THEN YOUR LIFE IS BUILT ON THE SAND.
We need this message today because I am afraid that so many people in our churches over the years have been deceived into thinking that they have “built their life on the rock” because they come to HEAR the word of God every week, so they think they’re a faithful Christian — and Jesus says that is not what it is.
How many people feel good about their life as a Christian, because they “go to church every week”, and “read their Bible every day”? I mean, most of us would consider that person to be a pretty good Christian, right: if you just go to church every week, and read your Bible every day? — that’s better than 90% of us! We think that’s a pretty good Christian right there! We think that’s “building our life on the rock”, but Jesus says here NO IT ISN’T! You are not building your life on the rock by just going to church and reading your Bible unless you are DOING what you are hearing and reading!
— Are you DOING what you hear in these messages?
— Are you DOING what you read in the Bible every day?
Every one of us should ask ourselves the question today: “Am I really building my life on the rock by DOING what Jesus said?”
Let’s get specific: when is the last time you purposefully CHANGED something in your life, and did something different than you were going to do, because of what you read or heard in the word of God?
— When is the last time somebody did or said something offensive to you, and you were really going to “let ‘em have it” — but you read what God’s word said in Proverbs, “A gentle answer turns away wrath,” so you didn’t do it?
— Or when is the last time you prayed differently because you used Jesus’ outline in Matthew 6, or God’s word directed you in how to pray for someone in a very specific way?
— When is the last time you didn’t “feel” like forgiving someone, but you did because you read that Jesus commanded you to, and that He will only forgive you like you forgive others?
— Or when is the last time you didn’t watch a tv show or look at a certain website, because you read where Psalm 101:3 says “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes”?
When is the last time you changed something in your life, or that you did something differently than you were going to do, because of what you had read or heard from God’s word? If you have difficulty coming up with something, you are in trouble. What do you think are you doing? You’re just coming here to church and sitting and listening and walking out and living the same way you were before you came in — do you think that is “Christianity”? Because it ISN’T! James 1 says you are “deceiving yourself” if you are living like that and thinking you are a Christian! Jesus said real Christianity — “building your life on the rock” — is not about just “hearing” His word; it is about DOING what His word says.
Folks, we are living in perilous times. We may have war; we may see economic collapse; we already DO have moral and spiritual collapse; there is personal tragedy and testing of one kind or another ahead for all of us. We will all be tested. Just like Jesus said here: the rain is about to fall; the floods are about to come; the winds are about to blow, and burst against our lives. Are you going to stand or fall when those things come? Jesus says here it all depends on ONE thing, and one thing only: did you “build your life on the rock” of DOING what His word says?