“The wise man built his house upon the rock. The foolish man built his house upon the sand.” Jesus made these two statements to the crowd who had gathered to hear Him preach on the hill beside the Sea of Galilee. Oftentimes, preachers and Bible teachers will isolate the six verses that make up the Parable of the Two Builders and talk about whatever they think the rock and sand symbolize.
It’s important for us to recognize that these words of Jesus come at the end of the greatest sermon ever preached, the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount begins in Matthew 5:1 and ends with the Parable of the Two Builders in Matthew 7:29. Let’s read together the opening words of Jesus’ sermon.
1 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:1-12 NIVO)
There are nine statements that begin, “Blessed are…” Jesus speaks to the crowd about how the “poor in spirit,” “those who mourn,” “the meek,” “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” “the merciful,” “the pure in heart,” “the peacemakers,” “those persecuted for righteousness,” and “those who are insulted and persecuted because of Jesus are blessed. These nine statements are found in the first 12 verses of Matthew 5. In the rest of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus speaks about marriage, prayer, service, loving our enemies, pleasing God, fasting, worry, judging others, salvation, keeping on the lookout for false prophets, and other topics as well. Jesus shared with the crowd what Kingdom life is like, how Kingdom people live, and what Kingdom people experience. The picture Jesus paints is a stark contrast to what our society holds out before us as the “blessed life.” When Jesus gets to the end of His sermon, in Matthew 7, He told the crowd,
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ 24 “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. 25 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. 26 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. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” 28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. (Matthew 7:21-29 NIVO)
It had to have been an eye-opening closing to such a powerful sermon. Jesus made it clear that not all of those who say to Him, “Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” What event did Jesus have in mind when He spoke those words? It was the final judgment right? On that day some will say, “Lord, we prophesied in your name. Lord, we drove out demons in your name. Lord, we did so many miracles…and they were all in your name.” And Jesus will say, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.” The old adage is true, you can’t judge a book by its cover. Then Jesus shared our parable for today.
Look at the Scripture with me again. I want you to notice some things about the story Jesus told. There were two men. These two men built two houses. They had to have built in the same area because there was only one storm. Nothing is said about one man’s work being shoddy while the other man’s work was that of a master builder. The only thing that is different is the foundation of the two houses. One house was built on the rock and other house was built on the sand. The storm proved disastrous for the one man who built his house on the sand.
What is the “rock” and what is the “sand” in Jesus’ parable? That’s a great question. We read, in 2 Samuel 22:2-3, that when David was saved from his enemies and escaped Saul’s attempt to have him killed, he sang a song. Read along with me.
2 He said: “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; 3 my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior– from violent men you save me. (2 Samuel 22:2-3 NIVO)
David recorded this same song in Psalm 18:2. God, YHWH, is our rock, our fortress, and our deliverer. At the same time, in the New Testament, Jesus is called the “cornerstone,” as well as “a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” Read along with me in 1 Peter 2:8.
8 and, “A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message– which is also what they were destined for. (1 Peter 2:8 NIVO)
Why do people stumble on the rock? Peter tells us, “They stumble because they disobey the message…” Both of these things are true: God is our rock, Jesus is the cornerstone, the rock that makes people stumble because they reject, they disobey the message, but is this what Jesus had in mind when He spoke to the crowd that day on the slope of the Sea of Galilee? I don’t think so. Go back to the parable with me. Take a look at verse 24.
24 “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. (Matthew 7:24 NIVO)
Which words was Jesus referring to in this verse? All of the words that He’d spoken in the Sermon on the Mount. We can even expand to all of His words period, but the context tells us Jesus had in mind everything He had just shared. The person who builds their house on the rock is the person who puts Jesus’ words into play in their life. Now, look at Matthew 7:26 with me. Jesus said,
26 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. (Matthew 7:26 NIVO)
Once again, Jesus says that those who do not put His words, His teaching, into practice, is like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. I’ve been thinking about this all week long. When we go to buy a house what is it that catches our eye? Do you first go to the foundation or are you most attracted to the exterior and interior of the house? I would bet that most everyone here would say they are most attracted to the those things above the ground. “The exterior of the house was just what we were looking for! The mixture of the whitewashed brick and stone accents caught our eye from the moment we drove past it. Then we went inside and saw those gorgeous hardwood floors, the granite countertops, and that giant family room with the huge fireplace. We just knew we had to have it!” Before you buy that dream home of yours an inspector will come out and take a look at those things you cannot see. Right up there at the top of the list of the most important things that need to pass inspection is the foundation.
I would dare say we do the same thing in the building of our lives. We pay special attention to the “externals,” the things that are above ground, the things others see and which we think will make us happy. We make sure we get in the right schools so we can get a good quality education. We search high and low and will go to the ends of the earth to make sure we find the dream job we’ve always wanted. We begin to build our savings, upgrade our cars and home as the years go by, invest in a membership at a club where the boys hang out and play golf and poker, begin to build our stock portfolio so we can amass as much money as possible as we near retirement. We buy life insurance to benefit our loved ones when we die. We sit down with an attorney and create a will.
We do the same thing with our kids. We move around to make sure they get in the right school or if we can afford it, we send them to private school. We ask around, get to know the right people, so we can get them on the best teams. We volunteer to do this or that to ensure the coach or teacher will give our kid the best shot. When our kids graduate we work behind the scenes to make sure they get an internship at the best, most respected offices in town. And on and on the story goes.
Do you see that all of that activity, all of that energy, all of that productivity is aimed to build “above ground.” We work feverishly to make sure we are presentable, prosperous, and as productive as possible. But what about the foundation of our lives? What have we made the bedrock of our lives? Is the foundation for our lives simply to work as hard as we can to make as much as we can to be as successful as we can? How does success, financial prosperity, community notoriety, professional applause and acclaim help us to answer the most important questions in life? Questions like: “Why am I here? What is the meaning of life, of my existence? Is there any larger purpose for me than to simply get as much as I can? How would God have me to live and interact with those around me? And what about death? My life is going to end at some point…what then? Is there life beyond the grave? If so, how can I gain eternal life?” Very little time, if any time, is spent on seeking answers, contemplating, and studying these foundational topics that every person should be concerned with in life.
When we come to the end of our life, it may come suddenly, or it may take place slowly as we lose strength and die, what foundation will we be standing on at that time? Our success? Our well-respected name in the community, among our peers? Our toys and trinkets that we’ve accumulated over time? I hardly think any of those things will benefit us in the least at that time. We need a much stronger foundation, a much surer foundation.
Edward Mote was born in London in 1797. His parents managed a pub and he was often left to take care of himself. He said that as a kid he was so ignorant that he didn’t know there was a God. He heard the Gospel when he was 18 years old, he accepted Christ as his Savior, and took an apprentice position as a cabinet maker. In 1834, while working as a cabinet maker he read the Parable of the Two Builders. He sat down and wrote these words,
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name
On Christ the solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand (Edward Mote, 1834)
“All other ground is sinking sand.” All other ground. I need to point out something for you in case you missed it. The people Jesus had in mind in drawing the distinction between those who build on the rock and those who build on the sand are not the followers of Jesus and atheists or people from some other religion. Jesus story is aimed at those who are followers of Jesus who live out what He taught and those who like listening to Jesus, but His words are not important enough to put into practice. Jesus said both the man who built his house on the rock and the man who built his house on the sand “listened” to His words, but only one put them into practice.
“I like going to church on Sunday and listening to the preacher teach about Jesus. Jesus said some really interesting things about love, forgiveness, serving one another, etc. I have to be honest though, I don’t find them practical given the dog-eat-dog world I work in every day. I go to church to give my kids a good moral foundation. I go to church because I find the people there basically good people, for the most part. These are the main reasons I go to church.” No doubt this man would consider himself a Christian, a follower of Jesus, but Jesus would say that he is a man who has built his house on the sand. James, the brother of Jesus, wrote,
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it– he will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22-25 NIVO)
It is not the hearing of Jesus’ words, not in simply reading God’s Word, that we build our lives on the solid rock, but it is in doing what Jesus said. In John 8, we read,
30 Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him. 31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:30-32 NIVO)
We’re not finished building when we come down front, profess our faith in Jesus, and then follow Him in baptism. Those are the beginning of the building process. We must continue to build, continue to learn the way of Jesus, and then follow in His steps.
I want us to notice one more thing about these two homes. You can’t tell them apart. They both look really nice. Fine craftsmanship and attention to detail both inside and out. Both were dream homes. There was only one way to know which one was solid and secure and which one was a disaster waiting to happen. In time, in the storm, the truth would be revealed. And so it is in life. Will you and I go through storms in this life? You better believe it. They will come again and again. Sometimes our storms will overlap, but that shouldn’t surprise us. Jesus said,
33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIVO)
Storms will come in all kinds of ways. Sometimes it will be a ferocious storm at work. At other times the storm will rage in your own home. Sometimes the storm breaks out in our own hearts and minds, internal storms that batter our soul and keep us up at night. There is a wide variety of the kind and intensity of storms that we will go through in life, but make no mistake about it–storms will reveal the foundation you have built your life upon. What is of greatest importance to you and me is not to figure out a way to escape the storms of life, that is impossible, but to learn how to go through the storms of life. Jesus didn’t say that if we hear His words and put them into practice that we will be spared the storms of life. He said that if we hear His words and put them into practice that we will not be destroyed by the storms of life. God told His people, through the prophet Isaiah,
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. (Isaiah 43:2 NIVO)
Now, here’s what you and I need to recognize about this promise of God. We will pass through the waters, we will pass through the rivers, and we will walk through the fires of life. Just like those who do not believe, we will pass through the trials and tribulations of life, but there is one huge difference between us and those those who do not know and follow Jesus–He is with us. We are not alone. We are never alone!
There is another difference between those who hear and do what Jesus says and those who do not–those who hear and do, those who cling to every word of Jesus as the absolute truth, know that our God is a God of purpose. There is nothing that we will go through that He does not intend to use to draw us to Himself and to build our faith. God is not caught off guard by the storms of my life, by the storms of your life. Knowing this truth, relying on this truth, and holding fast to this truth when we go through the storms of life is what enabled Joseph to see beyond his brother’s evil actions towards him. Do you remember how harshly those brothers had treated Joseph? They wanted to kill him, they sold him as a slave, but Joseph was able to see beyond what they had done so he could say,
19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50:19-21 NIVO)
His house was built on the rock. The storm raged in Joseph’s life, but when the storm had passed, he was able to see God’s hand in the storm. What are you building your life on this morning? What will anchor you when the storms come? Build your life on Jesus Christ my friend. Learn of His ways. Follow in His steps. Trust Him when it seems like it is all crumbling in your hands. Won’t you trust Him this morning?
Britton Christian Church
April 7, 2019