Pastor Scott L. Harris
1/17/93; April 18, 1999
What is Your Foundation Built Upon?
I am sure that all of us have seen pictures of what a storm can do to a coastal community. It is one thing to see pictures of such destruction. It is another to see it in person. 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 especially in the summer when cool breezes blew off the ocean. One of the other areas I inspected was the hot desert area in the north east section of the county. I remember one particular winter there was a series of severe storms that battered the coast. Damage was high and included quite a few homes totally destroyed. It is quite a shock to drive up to a site you check every week, get out of the truck, and then notice there is nothing but surging ocean left. The house and property have all been washed away. You notice other homes, some only slightly damaged, others with the front part of them fractured and collapsing upon their broken support pilings.
What makes the difference between one home left standing and another left fractured and falling into the ocean? The quality of the building materials? No, these were multi-million dollar homes. Only the best materials were used. The difference was what they were built upon. Those homes which had their foundation laid in the bedrock stood firm against the tempest that raged against them. Those homes whose foundations were laid in the sand, fractured, broke 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 Foundations, Two Results
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. Let’s begin by examining the similarities between the two.
Similar Appearance – 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 Matthew 7:15-20 are not distinguished by their outward appearance, but the type of fruit they produced. (See: Beware of False Prophets). Those deceived by their own self-righteousness in Matthew 7:21-23 were outwardly doing all the things that the truly righteous would do. (See: The Deception of Self-righteousness). In addition consider that the general context of the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ effort to make a distinction between the self-righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees and the true righteousness of those who humbly follow God. Most of the distinctions our Lord has made have not been things that would be outwardly noticeable at first glance.
For example, back in Matthew 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? What apparent difference is seen in a person who limits themselves to just revenge and those who seek no revenge? 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? While there may be some outward indicators of what is in a person’s heart, they are not discernable without careful observation and study.
I think of this in terms of tract homes. I grew up in a large tract of homes built by the Kaiser Company. Houses would vary slightly, some had garages in front, some on the side and some in the back, and they varied with individual taste in the color of paint, trimming, and the landscaping. Yet, it was easy to tell that they were all tract homes built according to the same basic plan. If you drove down the street you could not tell what was on the inside of those homes or what their foundation was like. You could only assume based on the outward appearance, and since they all appeared similar on the outside, they all had a similar foundation as well.
Jesus says here that two men built houses. One was wise, the other foolish, but you could not tell them apart by the outward structure. They become differentiated when the storms come, because it is at that point the foundation is tested. This is the second similarity. Both houses would have to endure the elements and be tested by storms.
Similar Testing 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” (Matthew 7:25,27).
Some have tried to make some 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. I mention here as a footnote that there are two different words here for “burst” or “beat” even though they are translated the same in your Bibles. In verse 25, the word used is prospitw (prospipto) which means “to fall against,” whereas in verse 27 the word used is 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 as that same storm comes 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 in ruin. No one builds with the expectation that the structure will fail, yet as the storms come, many will find what they have built is falling down around them.
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 in the storm, but joy over the product the storm produces which is maturity.
The Storms of Life
What sort of storms can come against us? All the common things of life. We could have economic down turn and end up with financial problems. Many in our country, including Christians, have faced these in the past and some in the present. Losing employment is nothing new, and neither is poverty. The indication of Scripture is 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 (2 Corinthians 8,9). We even find Paul commending 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 8:1-3).
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, as we have already seen Jesus point out in Matthew 6, they will obey His command to cease being anxious and seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. (See: The Cure for Anxiety). 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. Their treasure is the things of this world which they serve. Their hearts are on material things, not the Lord, so when the economic storm comes, they worry.
Health – Pain & Suffering
Another storm that is part of life is sickness and physical suffering. This world is under the curse of sin and does not function according to God’s original design. One of the consequences of that curse is sickness. I believe in the sin theory of disease. Our bodies do not work the way they were originally designed resulting in genetic disorders, hypersensitivity to the environment and other problems. Our environment is not in the shape it was originally designed resulting in our food not having the nutrient content it should have and conditions toxic to us. Other creatures have been affected by sin so that they exploit an alternative food source – us. We are attacked by bacteria, fungus, viruses, and a host of other parasites and predators. Our minds have been affected and we do really stupid things to both our bodies and to others. That is in addition to people just being plain mean and hurting one another. When these various physical aliments strike us we can get knocked off our feet and then can easily fall into depression and despair. Part of the big 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 physical pain and suffering. Without the Lord, their despair leads them to see death as the only hope to escape their pain and end what they see as pointless lives.
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. I realize there are those that claim that it is always God’s will that Christians be healthy. Such teaching results from both Scripture twisting and ignoring what is obvious in Scripture. Isaiah 53:5 is often cited as a proof text saying, “By His stripes you are healed.” It is a tragedy that such a wonderful verse, which in context is a promise of healing from sin due to Christ’s suffering for sin on our behalf, is twisted in such a manner. The tragedy continues in the mental, emotional and spiritual anguish that comes upon people who are lead to believe that they are supposed to be physically healthy and yet they are still sick and physically suffering. Christians do suffer physically. Paul had a thorn in the flesh of some type that came directly from Satan. Timothy had some sort of on-going stomach ailment. Paul did not tell him to have more faith and demand his healing, he told Timothy to take wine and not water only (1 Timothy 5:23). The strength of the true Christian in suffering is as Asaph writes in Psalm 73:25,26, “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.” And as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 after entreating the Lord three times to have his thorn in the flesh removed. “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ 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 true Christian is subject to the physical suffering that is present in this fallen world just like anyone else, but he or she has a hope and a purpose that transcends the suffering of the present. The pain felt is real, and we, like creation groan as we await the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8), 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.
But for the foolish the pain is not bearable. Physical pain and suffering lead inevitably to anger, then depression, then despair. There is anger that they are in pain. Often every effort is made to blame someone else and a law suit is filed. Depression sets in as they find there is no easy way out of the situation. Despair comes about when all perceived hope is gone. Escape is the path for many at this point. Proverbs 31:6,7 comments on this, “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.” The house of the foolish collapses.
Another storm that comes upon us is physical death. That includes friends and loved ones around us and our own. When someone we love dies, we grieve. Most of us know the anguish of that sorrow. Even Jesus wept at Lazarus’ tomb. Even for the Christian death is still an enemy and will remain an enemy until it is thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20), but for those whose trust is in Christ, it is as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, an enemy who has lost its sting and its victory. We grieve, we cry, we struggle with our emotions, but we are not as those without hope, for we have a Savior and therefore an assurance for the future. When the Christians face death they can find themselves in the same perplexity as Paul 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.
The final storm the foolish will face will be their judgement before God. That is why Jesus says in Matthew 7:27 that not only did the house fall, but “great was its fall.”
You see this section is a further illustration of what Jesus has been dealing with since Matthew 7:13,14. There are two gates. Which one have you entered? There are two paths. Which one are you walking? There are two destinations. Where will you end up?
Jesus gives warning in Matthew 7:15-20 that there are false prophets dressed in sheep’s clothing that 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 tell the true nature of these prophets 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, run away from them.
In Matthew 7:21-23, we saw the deceitfulness 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.”
The passage this morning continues that same theme. There are those who are wise and those who are foolish. The wise enter the straight gate and walk the narrow path that leads to life. The foolish enter the wide gate and walk the broad path that leads to the destruction. (See: Which Way to Heaven?). The house they build is destroyed by the storms that come against it, and its fall is great. The only remaining question is what is the difference between the wise and foolish. 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 Matthew 7:24 with, “therefore,” and that tells us that this illustration is the conclusion of what He has been saying. Everything that Jesus has said from Matthew 5 to this point comes to this conclusion. What Jesus says here is not popular even among evangelicals, but He says it, therefore it is true. Matthew 7:24, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man . . . ” Matthew 7:26, “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 concludes 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 who 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 Matthew 7:21-23. They did much in the name of the 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 can not work your way to heaven. That is the clear teaching of Scriptures. What then does Jesus mean?
What Jesus says here is akin to what James says in James 1:22, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” Did you get that last part? – not merely hearers who delude themselves. You can claim anything you want, but that does not make it true. People can claim they believe in Jesus Christ and that they have placed their faith in Him, but as Jesus says here, if they do not follow through with actually heeding what He says and doing it, then they are like that foolish man busy building a house on the wrong foundation, and it will collapse. Claiming to be a follower of Jesus and doing things in His name does not necessarily mean you are saved, for verses 21-23 described that tragic mistake. However, to hear Jesus’ words and ignore the actions they require gives positive demonstration that you are not saved. That is the point of this passage.
I believe the greatest tragedy in fundamental, evangelical Christianity is at this very point. We have allowed and often repeated a perverted Gospel in which into 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?” 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)? What about Jesus being the second person of the Triune God? What about Jesus being fully God and fully man? What about Jesus being the creator? What about substitutionary atonement? What about believing in the return of Christ? At what point of belief is the individual saved?
The result of this thinking is saying, “I am saved because I believe. . . “. 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. I read in a “Fundamentalist” paper about a guy claiming 20 saved here, 50 here, 700 here, 200 at another place. John MacArthur reported about a fellow on staff at a large church that finally decided that something was wrong when the annual report claimed 28,000 conversion, 9,600 baptisms and 123 additions to the church. The truth is that no one has any idea how many are saved at a meeting because the evidence of salvation is not weeping, praying or stating a creed. It is a life changed 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.” We should be careful and never say, “I am saved because I . . . “. Instead it should be, “I am saved because God . . . “.
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 seeking His grace and mercy, for in being destitute, you have nothing to offer God. 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.
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 every had health problems? 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 judgement 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 we do not? How is a person saved from sin? Are you saved? How do you know? Could you be self-deceived?
Sermon Notes – 4/18/1999 a.m.
“What is Your Foundation Built Upon?” – Matthew 7:24-27
Matt 7:24-27 (NASB) “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.”
Similar Houses, Different Foundations
The Storms of Life
Sickness & Pain
Two Different Foundations
Heeding Jesus’ Word
The Gospel Truth
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