(For the PowerPoint for this sermon, Click Here)
Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
November 16, 2014
I am sure that all of us have seen pictures of what a storm can do to a costal community. Such pictures can be dramatic, but seeing the destruction in person is even more hard-hitting. While in Seminary, I earned my living working for the Los Angeles County Agriculture Department. Among my duties was the responsibility of inspecting certain sites along the California coast from Santa Monica to the Ventura County border. It was a wonderful area to work and especially so in the summer when cool breezes blew in from the ocean. I remember one particular winter when there was a series of severe storms that battered the coast and I saw a lot of damage. Some homes had minor damage, others had their ocean facing sides fractured and collapsing upon their broken support pilings, and then there was the shock of pulling up to properties that I had visited every week and finding nothing there except surging ocean. The house had been swept out to sea.
What makes the difference between the homes left standing and those left fractured or falling into the ocean? These were multi-million dollar homes, so it was not the quality of the building materials for only the best materials were used. The difference was what they were built upon. Those homes which had their foundations laid in the bedrock stood firm against the tempest that raged against them. Those homes whose foundations were laid in the sand were fractured, broke up and fell as the sand was swept away and the foundation collapsed.
Jesus uses this same analogy to bring out His final point in His conclusion to the Sermon on the Mount. It does not matter if you are talking about the foundation of a physical building or the foundation upon which you have built your life, the principle is the same. The material upon which you lay your foundation will determine the strength of the structure that is built upon it. It does not matter the cost and quality of the building materials used, for a house built on sand is only as strong as that sand. It will collapse when put to the test.
Two Men, Two Houses, Two Ends – Matthew 7:24-27
Turn to Matthew 7:24-27. Our Lord said. “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock. 25 “And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and [yet] it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock. 26 “And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. 27 “And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall.”
Within this analogy there are two things that are the same and two things that are different. Both houses are similar in construction and both houses must withstand storms, but each house has a different material upon which its foundation is laid, and each house has a different final outcome. One house is built by a wise man upon a rock and it stands. The other is built by a foolish man upon the sand and it collapses.
First Similarity. There are two ways in which the houses are alike. First, both houses appear similar to each other. Nothing in the context suggests any difference in the outward appearance of the structures built. The immediate context of the previous verses would suggest that the outward structures look very similar. Notice that the false prophets, the wolves of verses 15-20, are not distinguished by their outward appearance, but rather by the type of fruit they produced. Those deceived by their own self-righteousness in verse 21-23 appeared outwardly to be the same as the truly righteous. In addition, throughout the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is making distinctions between the self-righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees and the true righteousness of those that humbly follow God, but most of the distinctions our Lord makes are not about things that would be noticeable at first glance.
For example, back in chapter 5, what is the outward manifestation of someone who has refrained from murder and someone that refrains from being angry with his brother? What is the external indication of someone who does not commit adultery and someone that does not lust in their hearts? How can you determine by a glance what a man treasures in his heart? Are the material things he possesses the result of his pursuit after them or the gracious blessing of the Lord? In general, a person who is self-righteous and someone who is truly righteous appear to be similar outwardly. The truth is not discernable without careful observation and study.
In this analogy Jesus says two men built two houses. One was wise, the other foolish, but you could not tell which house was which by the outward structure. They are alike in appearance.
Second Similarity. The second way in which the houses are alike is that both would have to endure the elements and be tested by storms. Storms will come. There is no stopping them. Sometimes storms come with warning and at other times they come suddenly without warning, but storms will come. When the storm does come, it will test what is hidden from view. Jesus says here of both houses, “the rain descended, and the floods (rivers) came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house” (vs 25, 27).
Some have tried to make some specific analogy out of each of these elements, but the simple fact is that they are all a normal part of a storm. A storm brings wind, rain and flooding. A storm “bursts” or “beats” against the house. Let me quickly mention here as a footnote that there are two different words in verses 25 and 27 for “burst” “beat” or “slammed” even though both words are translated the same in most translations. In verse 25, the word used is prospiptw (prospipto) which means “to fall against,” whereas verse 27 uses the word proskoptw (proskopto) which means “to strike against.” I do not believe this suggests a difference in intensity of the storms, but rather a difference in the effect of the storm upon the house.
If a strong storm comes against a strong building that stands firm and unmoving we would say that the rain fell upon it. But that same storm coming against a building that creaks, groans and shudders with each gust of wind, we would say it buffeted the building. That leads to the first difference between the two buildings. One building stands while the other collapses. In a moment we will discuss the reason for this difference in outcome, but for now I hope you recognize that the building that collapses is a great tragedy, especially in light of the fact that the builder did not expect it to fall. People do not purposely design and construct their homes to fail, yet as the storms come, many will find what they have built is falling down around them.
The Storms of Life
Storms are a normal part of life. James 1:2 describes it that way when he says, “To consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.” The trials of life are nothing unusual. They are a normal part of living. As we walk this earth, we will encounter them. The true Christian can consider these trials, these storms of life, as joyful encounters because, as James continues, “knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” And if we let endurance have its perfect result, we will be made mature and complete, lacking nothing (James 1:2-4). It is not joy because of the storm, but joy over the maturity that develops as result of learning to handle and endure the storm. What sort of storms can come against us? All the common things of life.
Economics. Financial problems, regardless of the specific source, are one of them. Christians have faced this in the past, many are facing it currently, and many will face again in the future. Losing employment is nothing new, and neither is poverty. The Scriptures indicate that many Christians lived in poverty during the first century. The church in Antioch sent a collection to the poor in Jerusalem (Acts 11:29-30), and later we find Paul taking up another collection for them. Paul commends those in Macedonia that even in their “deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of the liberality” in giving for the relief of those in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:1-9).
Economic hardship is nothing new even for wise Christians, but when this storm comes against you, your foundation will become evident. True Christians can withstand the storm without anxiety because they will hear and act on what Jesus has taught. They will heed the lessons in Matthew 6 and cease being anxious about the stuff needed to live daily life and instead seek first His kingdom and His righteousness trusting God to keep His promise to provide. The major decisions Christians are to make when it comes to economics are spiritual in nature, not financial. Their purpose in life is to serve the Lord, not mammon, so there is peace even when financial woes arise. That is not true for the foolish. They treasure the things of this world and mammon becomes their master. Their hearts are on material things, not the Lord, so when the economic storm comes, they worry.
Suffering. The consequences of the curse of sin include the storms of sickness and physical suffering. I believe in the sin theory of disease because neither our bodies nor the rest of our world functions according to God’s original design. Our environment has seriously degraded since the Garden of Eden resulting in our food not having the nutrient content it should have. It has also resulted in places and conditions that are dangerous to us. Toxic substances and environmental radiation can cause problems for us personally, but they also can cause genetic mutations which are passed on generationally resulting in all sorts of disorders such as autoimmune diseases, hypersensitivity to or intolerance of the environment, inefficient or failing body processes and such things. Then there is also the reality of aging.
Other creatures have also been affected by sin so that they now exploit alternative food sources which include us. We are attacked by bacteria, fungus, viruses, and a host of other parasites as well as predators. Our minds have been affected and we do really stupid things to both our bodies and to others causing injuries. That is in addition to people just being plain mean and hurting one another. That adds mental and emotional anguish to our suffering.
Christians are not immune to pain and suffering. In fact we suffer more than others because we also suffer at the hands of sinful men who persecute the righteous. The difference between the wise and the foolish when it comes to suffering is in heeding the teachings and promises of God and following the example of Jesus. The wise have a hope and a purpose that transcend the suffering of the present. They heed what Jesus taught in Matthew 5 and 6 and so have a purpose in the present of glorifying God by how they live life and the good works they do. They continue to develop the character qualities described in the Beatitudes while storing up their treasure in heaven which gives them hope for the future.
The wise feel real pain like anyone else, and we groan as we await the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23), but since we are partakers in the fellowship of His suffering (Philippians 3:10) and have eternal purpose and hope, the pain in the present is bearable. Like Jesus, the wise look beyond the present suffering to the joy that comes beyond (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus taught His disciples this very point in John 16:21-22 adding in verse 33 that “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” Paul understood this and said in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us,” and remember that Paul suffered a lot physically, emotionally and mentally (2 Corinthians 11:23-29).
For the foolish, pain, whether physical, mental or emotional, is not bearable. All sorts of strategies are developed to reduce or eliminate it and redirect the anger, depression or despair that develops from it. The effort to escape pain is commented on in Proverbs 31:6-7, “Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to him whose life is bitter. Let him drink and forget his poverty, And remember his trouble no more.” Anger is usually one of the first responses to pain and arising from that comes the effort to find someone else to blame and get revenge or some type of compensation regardless of the actual cause. Depression can set in if there is no easy way out get rid of or avoid the suffering. Despair comes about when all perceived hope is gone and with that the house of the foolish goes from falling apart to completely collapsing. Part of the strong push by certain groups in our society to legalize doctor assisted euthanasia – so called “assisted suicide” and “mercy” killing – is because of man’s fear of pain and suffering. Without the Lord, their despair leads them to see death as their only hope to escape their pain and end what they see as a pointless life. Tragically, their real pain only begins as they step into eternity without the Savior.
And while I am on the subject of pain and suffering, let me quickly warn you against those professing Christians that foolishly claim that is always God’s will that Christians are healthy. Their Scripture twisting only adds to the distress as false guilt is added to what they are already suffering since they are told they would be healed if only they had enough faith. The reality is that Christians do suffer and we should expect it since we live in a sin cursed world. The Apostle Paul was able heal lots of people, but he had to tell Timothy, his co-worker, to take wine and not only water for the sake of his stomach. Paul was not able to heal himself either. 2 Corinthians 9 tells us that he had some sort of thorn in the flesh that he entreated the Lord three times to remove, but He responded to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Paul then states, “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” The wise respond to suffering as did Asaph in Psalm 73 who came close to stumbling as he wondered why he was suffering so much while the ungodly seemed to be doing so well. Then he considered their end and his own and stated, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Death. The hardest storm we face in this life is physical death of those we love and in facing our own. When someone we love dies, we grieve. Most of us know the anguish of that sorrow. Even Jesus wept at Lazarus’ tomb. Death is still an enemy and will remain so until it is thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20). However, for those whose trust is in Christ, death is an enemy who has lost its sting and its victory as Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15. We grieve and cry and may struggle with our emotions, but we are not as those without hope, for we have a Savior that has conquered death and therefore we have an assurance for the future (1 Thess. 4:13-18). A Christian facing death should find himself in the same perplexity as Paul expresses in Philippians 1:21f of not knowing which is better, to stay and continue to serve the Lord here, or to depart and be with Him.
The foolish do not have this confidence when they are confronted with the death of a loved one or when facing their own death. The result is despairing sorrow which is a feeling that the world has ended and that there is no meaning or purpose to existence. There is agony of soul. Fatalism may rear its ugly head in which the emotions are denied and life becomes an empty series of meaningless events. You’re a puppet on a stage, and there is no audience.
Final Judgment. The final storm the foolish will face will be their judgment before God. That is why Jesus says in Matthew 7:27 that not only did the house fall, but “great was its fall,” for this section is a further illustration of what Jesus has been dealing with since verses 13-14. There are two gates – which one have you entered? There are two paths – on which one are you walking? There are two destinations – where will you end up? Heaven? Or Hell? (See: Which Way to Heaven?)
Jesus warned in verses 15-20 that false prophets pretending to be shepherds will try to entice you to enter the broad gate leading to destruction by trying to disguise it to be the straight gate leading to life. You can only discern their true nature by examining their lives to see if they bear the fruit of righteousness. If it is self-righteousness, then beware, for they are wolves. Avoid them, flee! (See: Danger: False Prophets)
Matthew 7:21-23 exposed the deception of self righteousness. People who believe they are followers of Jesus Christ and servants of God will find out that they were self deceived. All their efforts at being righteous will prove futile because they trusted themselves and their own efforts and not Jesus Himself. They did much in Jesus’ name, but they never had a personal relationship with Him. A very sobering and frightening passage because unless we are careful to examine ourselves, there could easily be someone in this room this morning that will hear Jesus say, “I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (See: The Tragedy of Self-Righteousness)
The passage this morning continues that same theme. There are those that are wise and those that are foolish. What is the difference between them? We know the wise lay their foundation on a rock while the foolish on the sand, but what is the rock? What is the sand?
The Wise Man & The Foolish Man
Jesus begins the section in verse 24 with, “therefore,” and that tells us that this illustration is a conclusion based on what He has been saying throughout this sermon. What Jesus says here is not popular even among evangelicals, but He says it, therefore it is true. Verse 24, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man . . . ” Verse 26, “everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man . . . “
The difference between the wise man and the foolish man is what they do in response to what Jesus says in this sermon. The result of the wise man’s response is a strong house that withstands the storms of life. This is the response of entering the straight gate, walking the narrow path and finding life. The result of the foolish man’s response is a house that falls with a great fall. It is the response of entering the broad gate, walking the wide way and ends in destruction. The rock the wise man builds upon is true righteousness found in Jesus Christ alone. The sand the foolish man builds upon is self-righteousness.
There are many that do not like this idea because they say it sounds like you have to work you way to heaven. To those people I say, you have yet to learn what it means to believe and you have yet to understand the deceptive nature of self-righteousness. Ephesians 2:8-9 is clear that “By grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, that no one should boast.” A person who is busy about the task of trying to do all of the Lord’s commandments and thinks that will save him has fallen into the same trap as those described in verses 21-23. They did much in the name of Jesus, but they did not know Him. Their faith, regardless of whatever they claimed, was in actually in their works, not Jesus Christ. This is the same problem that the Scribes and Pharisees faced. They did much in the name of God, but they did not know Him. You cannot work your way to heaven. That is the clear teaching of Scriptures. What then does Jesus mean?
What Jesus says here is akin to James 1:22, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” Let me repeat that last part – “not merely hearers who delude themselves.” You can claim anything you want, but that does not make it true. To hear Jesus’ words and ignore the actions they require gives positive demonstration that you do not actually know Jesus or believe in Him and therefore are not saved. That is the point of this passage. You are like that foolish man who built a house on the wrong foundation, and it will collapse.
I believe the greatest tragedy in fundamental, evangelical Christianity is at this very point of what it means to be a Christian. We have allowed and often repeated a perverted gospel in which your belief in Jesus is the work that saves you. Let me illustrate.
On more than one occasion in different settings the topic has arisen, “What is the minimum belief necessary for salvation?” Suggested answers include: That Jesus is Lord and God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9). That Jesus died for our sins, was buried and raised on the third day (1 Corinthians. 15:3-4). “Believe in the Lord Jesus” (Acts 16:31). Those who hear Jesus’ words and believe God who sent Him (John 5:24).
Those are all good, but each leaves out one or more important truths such as His deity, or His humanity, or His being the Creator, or the substitionary atonement, or His promised return. At what point of belief is the individual saved? The problem with this type of thinking is concluding that “I am saved because I believe . . .” In addition, such stated belief quickly degenerates into intellectual assent instead of belief, faith and trust all being facets of the same truth. The deception of self righteousness results in belief becoming just another work. That is how these so called Evangelists can claim so many being saved at their meetings. It is not uncommon to hear such evangelists claim that 20 were saved one place, 50 in another, 200 in another and 700 in still another location. One large church figured out that something was wrong when the annual report claimed 28,000 conversions, 9,600 baptisms and 123 additions to the church. The truth is that no one knows how many are saved at any meeting because the evidence of salvation is not weeping, walking the aisle, praying or stating a creed. The evidence of salvation is a life regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Salvation occurs when God, due only to His great love, extends to us His mercy and grace and makes us, who were dead in our trespasses and sin, alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5). Or as Paul puts it in Romans 3:24, “being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” Or as Paul states in Titus 3:5-7, 5 “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” We should be careful and never say, “I am saved because I . . .” Instead it should be, “I am saved because God . . .”
The result of being saved is becoming a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) because God made Jesus “who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Those who are saved have been changed internally so that they love Jesus resulting in obedience to His commands in demonstration of the characteristics of true righteousness which Jesus has spoken about throughout the Sermon on the Mount. To hear and act upon what Jesus has said in no way suggests that you can earn your salvation by good works. It only means that you will now naturally desire to and seek to exhibit the fruit of true righteousness.
For many months I have been presenting what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. If you have been here, you have heard these great truths. The only question remaining is, what are you doing with them? If you are not acting upon them, if you are not following Jesus’ instructions, then do not deceive yourself. You are like the foolish man, and your foundation will not withstand the storms of life. Your only hope is to start acting on what Jesus has said, and that starts with the first two beatitudes. You must come to Christ in full recognition of your absolute spiritual poverty. You must come to Him begging for His mercy and grace. Second, mourn over your sin. The cry of your heart needs to be, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” If it is, then you are entering the narrow gate. If it is not, then be warned. The foundation of your house is not adequate. The life you are building will fall, and great will be its fall.
The difference between a house that weathers a storm and one that collapses is its _________________
The strength of a spiritual structure is the __________________upon which it is built
Two Men, Two Houses, Two Ends – Matthew 7:24-27
Within this analogy there are __________similarities and ___________differences
First Similarity – both houses have a similar structural ______________
The outward appearance / actions of true righteousness and self righteousness are _____________
Second Similarity – both houses would have _____________ come against them
prospiptw / prospipto vs. proskoptw / proskopto = difference in __________ of the storm on the house
The Storms of Life – James 1:2-4
Economics – financial hardship and even ___________have been common to Christians since the beginning
The wise heed Jesus’ teaching – their ________is in heaven & they seek first His kingdom and righteousness
Suffering – The consequences of the curse of sin include the storms of sickness and ____________
_________Environment, Toxic Substances, Radiation, Genetic _________, Diseases, Parasites & Predators
The wise have a ____________ and a purpose that transcend the suffering of the present – Matthew 5 & 6
The foolish find pain ______________ and seek to reduce and eliminate it – Prov. 31:6-7
Without hope, despair leads to a desire for death ignorant that eternal judgment will be ______________
Beware of those that claim Christians should ____________ be healthy
Paul could not heal Timothy, or himself (2 Cor. 9) – Asaph in _________ shows the proper view of suffering
Death – of loved ones and facing our own is the ______________ storm in this life
The righteous still grieve, but we have _______for death has been conquered – 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Phil. 1:21f
The foolish grieve with despairing _________________because they have no hope
Final Judgment. The final storm the ___________will face will be their judgment before God – a great fall
The _______________is the warnings about two gates, two destinations, false prophets and self-deception
The Wise Man & The Foolish Man
“Therefore” points out this is a ______________ based on what Jesus has already taught
The difference between the wise and the foolish man is their ___________to what Jesus says in this sermon
You just be a ____________of the word, not merely a hearer who deludes himself – James 1:22
The gospel has been _____________ by making your belief in Jesus a work that saves you
Intellectual _________does not equal the three facets of belief, faith and trust which are needed for salvation
The evidence of salvation is a life _______________ by the power of the Holy Spirit
The saved are new creations made righteous by God and so they love Christ and __________ Him
What will you do in ______________ to what Jesus has taught? Are you wise or foolish?
Hope begins with _____________ and mourning over sin to enter the narrow gate
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times the term “foundation” is used in the sermon. Talk with your parents about how to strengthen the foundation of your life
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. Describe the destruction you have seen from a storm? What similarities are there between the two houses described in Matthew 7:24-27? What are the differences between them? What is the most important part of a building to give it structural integrity? Describe some of the storms in life you have weathered. Have you ever had financial problems? What was the long term effect of those problems? Have you ever suffered? What have been the long term effects? Have you ever faced death? How did you deal with it? Are you ready for God to judge you? What will His judgment of you be? Why? Why should you listen to and do what Jesus says? What does Jesus want you to do? What happens if you do? What are the consequences if you do not? How is a person saved from sin? Are you saved? How do you know? Could you be self-deceived?
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