Sitting on the Mountainside-Studies in The Sermon on the Mount

Day 44: “Wise and Foolish Builders” October 11, 2018

Matthew 7:24-29 (NIV) “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

“When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”

A few years ago, one of our sons and his wife lived in an attractive house in the Phoenix area. Unknown to them, there was a water leak underneath the building. As in most cases in that state, the structure was built upon a slab and not a full foundation. Not long after they moved out, a great crack appeared requiring expensive repairs before anyone could live in it. It didn’t experience quite the crash of which Jesus spoke in his word picture. But the point is the same. The residents did not realize that the structure was compromised.
In speaking of a crashing house, Jesus was really pointing towards a deeper question. Namely, “Have you checked on your spiritual foundation? Are you building on a safe and sturdy platform? Will it stand up well and safely if some terrible storms descend upon it? In speaking this way, Jesus was echoing the words of Psalm 127:

Psalm 127:1 (NIV) “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.”

Why would Jesus paint this word picture as he closed his Sermon on the Mount? Allow me to suggest that this was a perfectly sensible summary statement that followed all that he had been teaching them in Matthew Chapters Five, Six and Seven. We have spent forty-four days looking closely at the entire text. Just to review how Jesus portrays someone who wants to build their life on a genuine spiritual foundation … that person:

Desires a spiritual way of living that seeks to know God

Mourns the broken world but is waiting for God to ultimately renew it

Is merciful towards other people

Understands that following Christ will bring persecution

Understands that sin is a heart issue and not just a matter of behavior

Is willing even eager to love his/her enemies

Understands that relationship with God is first a secret matter and not for show

Is eager to store up treasures in heaven with less focus on here and now

Is prepared to be judged with the same standards that he/she judges others

Realizes what Jesus means when he speaks of the narrow gate or path

Jesus describes as “wise” the person who lives their life according to his teaching. Salvation is by faith and not by our good works … so no one should think “Well, if I act this way I can know God and have eternal life.” Not so! We must come to Christ by faith and receive him as Savior and then the ways described will characterize our lives. I want to live that way because I know God thru Jesus Christ … not to get to know God but because I know Him! The life that Jesus describes in Matthew Five, Six and Seven is a life showing the fruit of the God-centered life.

Our Lord then goes on to offer an ominous thought to those who live without regard to God and with no care for what He requires:

“But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

In forty years of ministry, I have heard every reason imaginable for turning away from Jesus. Things like God allows evil and if he was any kind of a loving God, He would not. Forgetting that God took on flesh and allowed the ultimate unjust evil to come down upon Himself in the person of Jesus on the Cross. Things like anger at God for allowing pain and heartache into one’s life. In the end, it is as C.S. Lewis said, “We want to put God in the dock!” We want to cross-examine Him and insist that he explain Himself for allowing evil and not doing things as we think He should do them.

I understand. I’ve seen enough heartbreak and have often thought “Why Lord? Why?” But because I cannot understand God does not mean I cannot love Him as I should. In the end, it’s always the same decision: “Will I love God unconditionally or only if He explains Himself and starts doing things as I think He should do them?” Actually, in the end, a God who could be fully understood by us could not be God.

We started out picturing ourselves as sitting on the mountainside listening to Jesus. Now he has finished, and we turn to each other in a mild state of shock. All the other teachers we have heard in first century Jerusalem have quoted the great writers and Rabbis. Not Jesus. He has spoken very differently. And so, we read:

“When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”

Of course, if Jesus was who he said he was, he would speak as the one who had the authority. Having left unbelief many years ago, I believe he was that one, and that he had the authority. In closing, consider:

Mark 8:27-29 (NIV) “Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, ‘Who do people say I am?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’ ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ.’”

Thus….Jesus has only one question for all of us: “Who do you say that I am?”

Blessings! Pastor Alberta

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