Foundations of rock or sand

By David A. Liapis

Thoughts on Matthew 7:24-29

I remember as a kid learning a song with motions (that I still remember) based on this passage about the wise and foolish men who build their homes, one on the rock and one on the sand, respectively. However, I can’t recall ever associating the building of my house on the rock with doing the things Jesus had spent an hour or two talking about on a hillside next to the Sea of Galilee in the First Century. It was always about Jesus being our rock and foundation of faith, which is a very good thing, but not quite what this passage is about. There was a disconnect with the understanding that our faith is evidenced by our works, as James 2:14-26 spells out so plainly for us. James says boldly that “faith without works is dead.”

If I had to sum up the entire Sermon on the Mount with one sentence, it would be this: Jesus is after our hearts, not just our actions (works). Notice I included the word “just.” There’s a reason for this, as this final section reveals. Good works cannot save us, but, as Jesus himself said in this sermon, they point a lost and dying world to the glory of a God who is seeking people who will worship him in Spirit and in truth (5:16). As such, it should be our joy to live lives of obedience to Christ that are markedly different from the world.

There is one other important thing we need to learn from this passage, and it’s that fierce storms tested the strength of both houses. Neither the foolish nor the wise men were spared having to weather challenges that revealed the quality of what they toiled to build. Those who choose to ignore the words and ways of Jesus will come to utter, eternal ruin. Those who hear and obey the voice of the Savior, which includes, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden,” as well as all the various commands to repent, receive and proclaim (the Gospel), will find their house stand firm and hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” in the end.

We should all be “astonished at [Jesus’] teaching” just as the crowds were who had gathered to hear him. Jesus teaches with authority because, well, he’s God; and yet, as I have learned, sometimes Jesus says things that I don’t like or agree with. The all-important question is this: will I submit my will and my understanding to God’s Word and trust that he knows best? The answer to this question is painfully obvious and simple, but it’s not always easy.

Jesus turned everything the Jews believed about the Messiah and their religion on it’s head. Nothing has changed. The Kingdom of Heaven is nothing like the kingdom of this world, and it follows then that the citizens of the Kingdom will look nothing like the citizens of this world. Are we willing to take up our crosses, deny ourselves and follow Jesus Christ? He has shown us in this sermon just a glimpse of what that will look like.

It was January 25, 2018, when I prefaced my attempt to write about the Sermon on the Mount with, “Unless the Lord helps me, what I am about to undertake might well be a complete waste of time for me to write and for you to read. May God help me.” I pray it has been as helpful for you as it has been for me. The best way to get to know our Lord is to spend time studying Him – his words; his meaning; his use of sarcasm, wit, humor, idiom and history. Jesus is an amazing person with a colorful and interesting personality. He’s not some hippie-ish, lovey guy who just wants to give everyone a hug, or a harsh taskmaster demanding strict obedience to his commands. He’s a dynamic, feeling, expressive person who graciously extends the offer of relationship to us; and, as he teaches, relationship with him is relationship with all of the persons of the Triune God.

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