“What’s Your Foundation?” (Matthew 7:24-27)

[This is the post-facto manuscript of my last Sunday School lesson/sermon at Champion Forest Baptist Church. I can’t think of a better way to end my time with that fantastic group. I hope this blesses you as well.]

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.

(Matthew 7:24-27)

Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus presents a picture of the ordinary life of His disciples—while at the same time demonstrating how radically different that life appears to the rest of the world. Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon are an impossible task to follow on our own, but His work of redemption on the cross and resurrection from the grave accomplished this impossible task on our behalf, so that anyone who repents of their sins and puts their faith in the work of Christ is cleansed of their sins and credited with His righteousness, giving us right standing before God through Christ. Once we are born again spiritually and given the gift of the Holy Spirit living within us, we can seek to obey the commands of Jesus in the Sermon and live out this ordinary radical lifestyle by His power and grace.

Jesus closes out His sermon with a picture of two builders and two foundations. I’d like to make 3 observations and a final plea.

Observation #1 – Everyone builds their lives on something. 

Notice that the wise man builds on a rock. In the Old Testament, God is described as the Rock of His people (Psalm 18:1-3). Later, Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ is called the rock upon which the Church is built (Matthew 16:13-20).  In Luke’s version of this teaching (Luke 6:46-49), he includes a few more details: the wise man digs down deep to lay a good foundation. This wise person is the person who comes to Jesus, hears His commands, and obeys them. Remember, you can never obey God or please God apart from faith. So we can rightly recognize that the wise man is also someone who came to Jesus in repentance in faith (or, “poor in spirit” [Matthew 5:3]).

Don’t miss this: the wise man builds his life on Jesus and on His teaching. The foolish man builds his life on anything else—there is no middle ground.  Look at verse 26—the foolish man hears the words of Jesus as well! But hearing isn’t enough. James writes in James 2 that faith without works is dead. So our works follow our faith—we come to Jesus, we hear His words, and we obey them in faith.

On the other side of the coin, we can’t fall into the trap of the false converts in Matthew 7:21-23. Mere works aren’t enough either. Church attendance isn’t enough. Sunday school isn’t enough. These are exterior works. Jesus just said that mere works is not enough to prove that the heart has been changed. So what is being described here? A wise man comes to Jesus in faith, repenting of sin and trusting Him as Savior, and “builds his house” on the foundation of Jesus and His word. Living faith produces the fruit of obedience.

Observation #2 – The storm is coming.

Earlier, in Matthew 5, rain was a sign of blessing for this farming society. But in the Old Testament, storms are a symbol for God’s judgment.

In Ezekiel 13:8-16, we see that false prophets have reassured the people that no judgment was coming, but God declares that judgment for sin will come as a storm does. Hmm—false teachers, false believers, and a storm of judgment. Sounds like Matthew 7, doesn’t it?

Some see this storm as representing the “storms of life,” and in some sense, having a foundation in Christ does keep you firm in the normal troubles and struggles of life in a broken world. You will face the storm, but you will not collapse. But I think there’s something else at work here.

Jesus is speaking here of the last storm, the judgement of God against sin on the Last Day, the Day of the Lord. The question Jesus raises is: On the last day, will your house stand?

The Bible teaches that if we are in Christ, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1) and that all our sin was placed on Christ and judged at the cross (Isaiah 53; II Corinthians 5:21). So when the final storm comes, if Jesus is your foundation, He will secure you against destruction.  But anyone who is outside of Christ has no such protection from the wrath of God.

Observation #3 – This is an issue of life and death, not just “life improvement.” 

Building your life on faith in Jesus and obedience to His teaching is hard. It’s challenging, painful and may seem like loss in the short term.

Though popular preachers and teachers may say otherwise, we don’t come to Jesus or call people to Jesus because doing so makes things easier or safer in this life, or more materially prosperous.  If that’s why you follow Jesus, you’re not following Him at all. Your life is built on sand and bare ground.

We come to Jesus and build our lives on Him because we are sinners who have earned every drop of the storm of God’s wrath, and Jesus Christ is our only hope of salvation. Though we are by nature children of wrath, enemies of God and rebels against His kingdom, He has graciously made a way to cleanse us of sin and adopt us as His children, by grace through faith in Jesus alone—His death and resurrection securing our justification and hope of a future inheritance.

So here is my final plea: be reconciled to God. Repent and believe the Gospel.

Some of you may never hear me teach or see my face again. Let this be my final word to you: repent–turn away from your sin and self-rule–and believe the Gospel.

  • You may have grown up in church and read the Bible cover to cover.
  • You may be a rebel, running from God’s authority.
  • You may be wrecked with guilt, afraid of God’s judgment and not quite able to believe that God can be merciful.
  • You may be an upright person on the outside, trying to keep the rules and earn your place in God’s kingdom.
  • You may be a prodigal who has reached the end of yourself and is on the long road back home.

My message to each and every one of you is the same: repent and believe the Good News that Jesus the Son of God came to earth, lived a perfect life in our place, died for sinners, and rose again victorious.  If you have already believed it, cling to it as a beautiful promise of God—a guarantee that you are His.

Jesus died to save sinners. Do you understand that you a sinner? Then He died for you. Repent of your sin and believe in Him and be saved!

Because if you do not, on the Last Day, the rain will come, the flood will rise, the winds will blow and beat against your house, and your house, your life, will fall. And great will be the fall of it.

Today is the day. Repent. Believe. And be born again.

Poor in Spirit.

The last few weeks have been really draining for my wife and I. Nothing as dramatic and life-altering as some of you dear friends are experiencing lately, and I humbly acknowledge this. Nevertheless, they have been a bit wearying, as we both have been attending to a host of small responsibilities and issues that have nibbled at the edges of our physical and emotional energy like hungry little fish. It reached a breaking point this week, as both my wife and I had days where we just broke down in tears.

Last night was my turn, as I lay on top of the bedspread and just wept, recounting for my wife the litany of weights and responsibilities I feel like I’ve been carrying around in my pack for months. The irony is, I know exactly what I would say to a brother who came to me with this same list of concerns: “Dude, believe the Gospel and walk in that truth!” Thankfully, I have a godly wife who loves me and will press the Gospel into the broken and fearful places in my heart.

I’m still fighting off the fear of failure, of letting down the people in my life who depend on me to be wise and capable and dependable. I’m still uncertain of what decisions to make in the next 6 months, decisions that will affect my family’s financial and spiritual life. I’m still worried about losing focus and breaking my commitments to financial and physical discipline. And I’m still struggling to find spiritual refreshment after being dry and withering in soul for the last few weeks, as all my time in the Word of God has been spent in preparation to teach. (This is a destructive habit I am ALWAYS in danger of falling back into.)

Providentially, the subject matter of my studies lately has been the Sermon on the Mount. This means that over and over, I’ve been thinking over the first words Jesus spoke in that sermon: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Over and over, this verse has popped up in my study, in my lesson outlines, in my encouragements to others. Yesterday, it finally dawned on me that I really need to apply it to my own heart right now.

In the midst of spiritual dryness, in the midst of fearful worry about not being “enough” to take care of what God has given me, in the midst of recognition that I need to grow in my marriage (more on this later), this verse stands as a comfort and a command. It’s too bad that I’m often too proud or too busy to remember it until God has seen fit to lay me flat on my back, crying on my bed.

So now, I’m going back to the start, returning to my first love. Today, I’m reminding myself that I am secure in Christ, and that my God is sovereign over all the details of my life and will provide everything I need to serve Him and others in all the ways He has given me to do so. I need to keep reminding myself of it. I’ve fallen out of the habit of preaching the Gospel to myself. When that happens, I forget that it still applies to me, that I’m still poor in spirit and wholly dependent on God for my life.

Blessed are the poor in spirit. You who recognize that you are busted, broken, empty, incomplete, insufficient–you are blessed. You who are weeping and weary, too tired to think straight, too frustrated to know what to do next–you are blessed. You sinners who have finally come to your senses in the pig-sty and realize that you have scorned the love and provision of your gracious Father–you are blessed.

Because it is only at this point that we can be filled. It’s only at this point that we are able to receive the Kingdom, graciously provided by our Shepherd-King who is a friend of sinners, a Man of Sorrows acquainted with grief.

Christian, repent and believe the Gospel. You still need it every day. I still need it every day. It’s still Good News for us.