October 12, 2008

Fierce Storm Approaching

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Matthew Scripture: Matthew 7:24–29


Fierce Storm Approaching

Matthew 7:24-29
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Pastor Randy Smith

As they say in the Chicagoland communities, "Anybody can have a bad century." The Chicago Cubs, the "loveable losers," had gone exactly 100 years without a World Championship. However, this year, fans saw something different. This was the year when everything was going to change.

Yet entering the postseason with the best record in the National League meant nothing when the first round of the playoffs concluded. Before you knew what hit you, the season was over in four days: Three games and three convincing losses.

Disappointed? Sure, our team across the board definitely did not play up to their potential. Shocked? Maybe, but we've been there before. We'll never forget "Bartman" in 2003 and the late season collapse that gave the "Amazing Mets" the pennant in '69. Maybe the response most of us are feeling is: crushed. The pain, the agony, the heartbreak of realizing your high hopes are once again dashed to the ground.

"I sat here and cried," said 89-year-old Edith Konya. "I'd never done that before. All of a sudden, I was sitting here, sobbing." Scot Moore, a transplanted Chicagoan now living in Minneapolis, recently had his auction yanked off e-bay last week where he was found attempting to sell his Cub's loyalty to the highest bidder.

Maybe it's a sport's team. Maybe you find your time and emotions caught up in something else. But whatever our item of affection may be, I find it amazing how we can be so consumed with the things of this world that hold no eternal significance. Unstable foundations!

No time to pray and evangelize, but Chicagoans could carve out 20 hours last week to watch all or part of the seven Cubs and White Sox games. Hurt when our team fails to advance in the playoffs, but relatively unmoved at the thousands of souls that are perishing in our community without Christ. Too poor to increase our giving to the Lord's work, but able to find the funds were somebody to offer us some seats to the game. Mourning over the outcome of a baseball season more than we mourn over our sins against our Savior.

Am I the only one here this morning that feels convicted over this kind of stuff? These are indicators that the foundation of our life is a bit unstable!

Jesus wants us to wake up! As He concluded His Sermon on the Mount, He wanted to make sure that His professing followers were true disciples. He wanted to make sure that they not only listened, but also applied what He said. He wanted them to make sure that they understood that He is Lord, and that every person is divided into one of two classes: Those who obey Him and those who reject Him, regardless of what they may claim.

The line has been drawn. As He said, we are either for Him or against Him (Mt. 12:30). That is why Jesus closes His Sermon by identifying two gates (Mt. 7:13-14) and two trees (Mt. 7:15-20) and two confessions (Mt. 7:21-23), and today, two builders (Mt. 7:24-27).

We can claim anything we want, but the true follower of Jesus Christ will have a new nature that expresses itself in a changed life. This instruction off the lips of Jesus Christ was spoken, in its original setting, to professing believers. True believers need to hear this as we are "prone to wander, prone to leave the God [we] love." And false believers need to hear this to be assured that they are not deceived in thinking they are saved when in reality they are not.

So let's dive into our passage and examine the final section of our Lord's great Sermon as Jesus presents the comparison between two builders.


Let's first observe what these builders had in common.

Their Construction

It appears that the construction of their houses looked exactly the same. Possibly they had a different floor plan, maybe they were painted a different color, but we have no reason to believe from the perspective of the naked eye that one home stole the attention from the other.

Additionally, we have every reason to believe that both of these men were proud of their work. Both of them built what they deemed reliable structures. And both of them dwelt in the same community. For the text tells us that their houses were hit by the same storm.

Their Confession

Obviously, Jesus is concerned with more than carpentry. The houses in this parable are a metaphor to represent the lives of these two individuals. And each of these individuals represents all the individuals who confess to know Jesus Christ.

All people on the planet begin constructing their lives from the time they are born. Sure, our Creator blesses us with some raw materials that may differ from person to person, but all of us are builders primarily responsible for the people we have become. We allow ourselves to be shaped by a variety of outside influences and then process those influences to best suit our interests. Our worldview, our philosophies, our morals are all descriptive of the building that we have constructed that we call our life.

Each of the men in the parable may have had some differences, but they definitely had one thing in common. They both "hear[d] the words of [Jesus Christ]" (Mt. 7:24, 26). We have every reason to believe they accepted the Gospel, confessed to be a follower of Jesus and, living in the same community, probably attended the same church. Again, virtually no difference between the two regarding the appearance of their spiritual lives.

As their homes were attractive, they were well groomed. As their homes were crafted, their families had it all together. As their homes were distinctive, they spoke biblical beliefs. As their homes had character, they lived a moral life. And as their homes seemed safe, they seemed secure in their salvation. The point is this: like their respective homes, from an outward observation, neither appeared any different. To the average onlooker, there was virtually no contrast between these two individuals.


But as we move to the second point, our Lord makes it clear that there was a glaring contrast unnoticeable to us, yet very noticeable to Him.

Their Foundation

What people failed to see when they looked at their respective houses was that which was hidden beneath the surface. In this case, each house had a different foundation.

One was built, verse 24, "on the rock." Rock, petros, not a stone but a large outcropping of rock. This builder, by digging deep (Lk. 6:48) into sturdy sub layers of earth provided a foundation for his house that was solid and stable and immovable. Jesus calls him in verse 24, "wise."

The other man, though unobservable to the naked eye, built his house, verse 26, "on the sand." His house may have been constructed faster and expenses in money and effort may have been saved along the way, but his carelessness will end up hurting him in the long run. His foundation was loose and unstable. Jesus calls him in verse 26, "foolish" (moros - where we get our English word, yes…"moron").

Now the fool was self-deceived, and I have every reason to believe he thought himself the wiser of the two. I can imagine what he was thinking while sitting in his house on a cold January evening watching the Super Bowl on his 42-inch plasma flat screen with a cozy fire blazing in the background while munching on nachos and sipping eggnog. I can imagine him looking out his window and talking about the foolishness of his neighbor as he spoke to his wife. Though they began their construction at the same time, there was Ralph still blasting away at the granite. Freezing hands, multiple trips to Home Depot and still no structure to show for all of his efforts. While Ralph was still laboring away, the true fool was comfortable, believing his house to be safe and secure.

That is, until the storm came!

And it was a mighty storm. Neither builder was able to predict the time, duration or intensity of the storm. Neither was able to do anything to prevent the storm from arriving. Neither was able to minimize the storm's impact. All they could do was seek refuge in their homes and trust their structures to provide the shelter they needed. As Jesus said in verses 25 and 27, "The rain fell [on their roofs], and the floods came [to their foundations], and the winds blew and slammed against [the walls of their] house." Verse 25, "And yet[one house] did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock." Verse 27, "And [the other house on the sand] fell - and great was its fall."

Their Fidelity

So how does the metaphor translate from the physical to the spiritual perspective? It all comes down to their fidelity to the Lord Jesus Christ. According to verses 24 and 26, both men heard the words of Jesus Christ. But also according to both of these verses only one of them "act[ed] on them" (Mt. 7:24). Therein lies the difference between these two chaps.

James 1:22 says, "But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves." In 1 John 2 we read, "By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, 'I have come to know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked' (1 Jn. 2:3-6). And as we learned last week from Jesus in Matthew 7:21, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter."

The Lord Jesus does not give His commands to be marveled at. He is not interested in mere head knowledge or lip service. Contrary to the man's beliefs with the sandy foundation, He is looking for obedience. He is looking for people who build their life on the rock of His immutable and authoritative and glorious and soul-satisfying Word. He is looking for people who sift everything though the grid of Scripture. He is looking for people who delight in following and demonstrate their love for Him by doing as He says. He is looking for people who prize Him as the ultimate object of their dearest affections.

People who build the foundation of their lives on the sand are not always those who reject Christ verbally. They are in our churches. Their doctrine is often orthodox and their profession, in their own hearts, is sincere. To the naked eye they appear to be genuine disciples. Yet through the eye of the Omniscient One they are unstable imposters who have built their lives on a faulty foundation. As Jesus will say later, they are tares among the wheat (Mt. 13:24f).

Like the man in the parable, they are often looking for the easy way out. They want quick results and quick rewards. They have a shallow profession and often superficial approach to the Bible. They fail to "dig deep" (see Luke 6:48). They want a Christianity that allows them to coast into heaven without commitment, discipline, effort, perseverance, inconvenience and suffering. They prefer ear-tickling sermons, fluffy doctrine and low accountability congregations. Despite their profession, their foundation is not the words of Jesus Christ, but rather human opinions, worldly philosophies, personal feelings, observable experiences and a grab bag of religious concoctions. And when the rubber hits the road and it is all said and done, they fail to put the words of God in action. The fundamental difference between these two individuals is simply whether or not they obey the words of the One they call Lord. One foundation says Jesus is "Lord" - without obedience. The other foundation says Jesus is "Lord" - with obedience.

Eventually the reality of our true foundation will be revealed. And according to Jesus it will be revealed during the storm - the time of testing and adversity.

In an immediate sense, we are hit by these storms on a daily basis. How do we respond when we are faced with rejection and disappointment and sickness and failure? Does our house stand or does it collapse? Are we continually overcome by these storms whereby our joy and peace fade and our energy is depleted and our emotions are all over the map and our spirituality suffers once again another major setback? And when the storm subsides and we regain our footing, do we go back to erecting the same structure on the same foundation only to repeat this same vicious cycle all over again?

Those who dig deep and build their foundation on the rock will have sustained faith during the storms of life. They will have hope and confidence in God's promises. The crisis doesn't knock them off kilter. They will weather the storm. And despite the work of laying the sure foundation, they will in the long run, reap the greater blessings.

Yet primarily what this verse is talking about is the ultimate storm of God's final judgment. Frequently in the Old Testament the storm is a metaphor for God's judgment (cf. Eze. 13:10f). All people, says the Bible, will face a day of judgment when our foundations will be exposed and the reality of our faith will be revealed. What is our hope that we will survive this ultimate storm? How can we know that our house is truly built on the solid foundation?

The answer is simple. Isaiah 28:16, "Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, 'Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed.'"

Though our sin has separated us from a Holy God, Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners. He went to the cross to take sin upon Himself and then face the storm of God's wrath in the sinner's place. The Bible is clear that through faith and repentance we can receive this gift of protective forgiveness (Eph. 2:8-9). And in receiving this gift of protective forgiveness, we have, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, "Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come."

The word "salvation" implies we are saved from something. If we are not saved from God's wrath, what are we saved from? And if there is no violation of God's holiness because of our sin, why in the world do we need salvation? And if we don't need salvation, why are we reading our Bibles which more than anything else speak of our need to be saved and the answer that is found in Christ Jesus?

"Well, Pastor, I don't believe in God's wrath. I don't believe there is a final judgment. And I don't believe anybody will ever be in hell." Words like this only reveal that some false teacher has sold you a lot on the sand! The whole point of this passage speaks of spiritual safety for those who believe and act upon God's Words! In the verses that precede: Verse 13, "The way is broad that leads destruction." Verse 19, "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." Verse 23, "Depart from Me you who practice lawlessness." Jesus spoke twice as much about hell as He did heaven. To dismiss one is to dismiss the other, and to discount one of His sayings is to question the credibility everything else He uttered. Rejecting hell is rejecting Jesus' words. And rejecting Jesus' words is revealing a house constructed on the sand.

The passage is clear. Only the house built on the rock will stand. Only the person who acts on Jesus' words will survive the storm of final judgment.

"So, Pastor, are you saying we need to earn our salvation with works of obedience?" Absolutely not! We are saved by grace through faith in Christ. We learned in Matthew 1:21 about birth of One named "Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." Salvation is a gift. But as I said last week, evidence of our salvation is the desire and ability to follow God. Think about it, Christians are not people who think they can earn their salvation. We are the people who come before God as that First Beatitude taught us (Mt. 5:3) "poor in spirit." We are people who acknowledge that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. We are people who cast ourselves upon the mercy of God. Then He saves us. And then He transforms our lives. Perfection? Absolutely not! Jesus told us we need to pray, "Forgive us our debts" (Mt. 6:12). That implies we still sin. But the direction of our hearts is now bent toward following our Savior. Maybe we are not all that we should be, but by God's grace, we are changed people who now delight in His Word and seek by the power of the Holy Spirit to obey it!

D.A. Carson said, Christianity is not simply a moralistic religion of high ideals. High ideals - indeed, the highest - it has, but it also presents a crucified yet risen Savior who forgives repentant men and then given them life to grow to meet those ideals" (The Sermon on the Mount, p. 135).

Jesus Christ does not save His people to keep them under the dominion of Satan! He does not save them to watch them wallow in the muck and mire of sin! He does not save them to allow them to continue in the very sins that put Him on the cross. Rather He saves them to enjoy abundant life, to walk again in the image of God, and to help them develop to the full potential and joy that God intends. How could a loving Savior do any less? How could we not desire to submit to the Lover of our soul as Lord?

And His love for the false believers is also evident in this teaching! How can He sit back and allow these people who profess His name to continue in their state of deception? If you were sleeping and the water was rising in your house, would you not thank me for pounding on your doors and warning you of the impending danger? Would you call me judgmental? Would you accuse me of trying to scare you into safety? Would you be mad because I awoke you from a state of dreaming?

This is a serious matter. The final words of this sermon are left ringing in our ears: "And great was its fall" (Mt. 7:27; cf. Lk. 6:49).

Again, the comparison in this sermon between the two men is not between the rank unbeliever and the Christian. Rather, it is between two people who profess to be Christians. One is truly saved. The other is self-deceived.

The text asks us some probing and ultimate questions: Are you a wise person or a fool? Is the foundation of your life a person, a hobby, a joy, a feeling, a stock market, a sports team or is it everything contained in the Word of God? So where have you built your foundation? Is it on the sand or is it on the rock among those who act upon God's words?

"[Are we] so much in love with Jesus, so utterly enthralled with the transcendent beauties of [our] Savior, so swallowed up in the adequacy of the Son of God in all things that nothing appear[s] so sweet to [us] as obedience to His commands?" (Sam Storms, Pleasures Evermore, p. 160).

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

In every condition, in sickness, in health;
In poverty's vale, or abounding in wealth;
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I'll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

Even down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no never, no never forsake.

John Rippon, 1787

other sermons in this series

May 1


The Great Conclusion

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Matthew 28:16–20 Series: Matthew

Apr 24


Resurrecting Hope (2)

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Matthew 28:1–15 Series: Matthew

Apr 17


The First Prerequisite To Resurrection

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Matthew 27:57–66 Series: Matthew