“What Are You Building Your Life On?”

 (Matthew 7:15-29 – Pentecost 2 – June 14, 2020)

Matthew 7:15-29 – 15“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Therefore by their fruits you will know them. 21Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ 24Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

Dear Redeemed in the name of Jesus Christ,

From time to time we hear about homes being carried away by mudslides. Sometimes people have built homes along a ridge overlooking a nice view. They may seem unshakable with their foundations sunk deep into the hillside. But one fateful year the rains fall in record proportions, until finally the ground beneath those homes becomes so saturated with all the rainwater that entire hillsides slide away, sweeping those homes and foundations along with them. In such times, how thankful are those people whose homes are built on solid ground, in such a place that when the rains came down and fell and fell, it would not affect them.

Our text reminds us that each of us in life is building a sort of spiritual house. When it comes to building our lives in such a way that we will weather the greatest storm of all, when it comes to building a spiritual house that will pass through the final test and remain standing for eternal life, Jesus leads us to ask the all-important question: “What Are You Building Your Life On?” 1) Is it on the sand? or 2) Is it on the rock? Let us consider these foundations.

1) Is it on the sand?

Jesus gives the basic definition of building on sand: “Everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand” (vs. 26). Many hear their Savior’s words, but do not take them to heart by faith to build on them. They foolishly build their spiritual house on sinking sand.

A person may hear Jesus’ words and call to build by faith on the rock of His salvation. But that person thinks, “I have other foundations that seem to give me firmer footing in this world. Life is too good here and now to care about unseen spiritual things. I’ve already got heaven on earth!” He postpones taking Jesus’ words to heart because he is too absorbed in the cares of this life. If he is forced to think about spiritual and eternal things, like when death stares him in the face, perhaps he contents himself with hazy emotions and sentiments about the afterlife that must suffice for now as true religion. In the latest census, he may label himself a Christian because at times he appears in church to hear Jesus’ words. Yet in his heart, he is not actually building his hope on Christ the Rock, but on the sinking sand of worldliness and materialism.

Or maybe a person hears the words of Jesus and thinks he is building on His teachings; but he is misled by falsehood. He listens to spiritual leaders that seem up with the times. But he fails to “test the spirits, whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1). So he does not recognize those fruits of false teachings Jesus warned about. He never suspects that he sits at the feet of wolves in sheep’s clothing, who smile and teach differently than Jesus (vs. 15-20). His teachers, following the modern spirit, do not address sin and salvation as Jesus does. So when Jesus says “Repent,” the misled soul thinks he is doing so, while going on living in an unrepented sinful lifestyle. Maybe he hears the words of Jesus and calls Him “Savior”; but in reality, he trusts something else to save him. He thinks, “Jesus died to give me second chance; now I must do my part to earn God’s favor by my good life. So by my faith plus my works I hope to make it to heaven.” Such a man is not building on Christ as the only Rock of salvation. Like his teachers, he is building on the sinking sand of falsehood and the sinking sand of works-righteousness.

Jesus calls him a spiritual fool. When you look at the house he is building, it may look nice on the outside. At times, the life of an unbeliever may look no different than that of a believer; especially if he is a hypocrite who has been saying all along: “Lord, Lord” (vs. 21).

The spiritual fool may look at his neighbor’s house and laugh: “Why does he spend so much attention to that foundation – all the details of Jesus’ doctrine and what Scripture says? He doesn’t even have much to show for it! I have done more good things for society. I have earned more favor with people. I’ve got more going for me in life than he does. I have built a far more impressive house for myself. Why should I listen to his advice on how to build?”

But even if his life looks good from the outside, the spiritual fool’s house is not ready for the big storm that is coming. He may think that since he has weathered many storms of life just fine based on his wisdom, strength, and goodness, therefore no storm will come that he is unprepared for. So far, his sandy foundation seems to have worked just fine for him.

But Jesus describes what becomes of such a house: “The rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall” (vs. 27). This is not just another storm among all the trials, sorrows, and hardships of life. It is the final great test of the Last Judgment. When the fool is summoned before God, the sandy foundation on which he has built his life will be revealed. He will try to boast in the great structure of his life, all the good he has done, as making him worthy of the kingdom of heaven. But none of this will save him. Jesus says: “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'” (vs. 22-23)

It does not matter what a fine looking life the spiritual fool builds in this world. It does not matter what great things he seems to have done in Jesus’ kingdom. If he has not built on the foundation of Jesus alone as his Savior, his spiritual house will fall. Before God’s judgment seat, he will feel the whole structure of his life falling in on himself as he sinks in eternal destruction.

2) Is it on the rock?

God’s Word tells us how alone we sinners can stand firmly before Him in the last judgment. Romans 3:23 says: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” By the innocent suffering and death of His own Son on the cross, God has redeemed us from sin, death, and hell. By the perfect life His Son lived for us, God justifies us freely – no longer counting our sins against us, but counting Jesus’ righteousness to us. Therefore, all who build on Christ, trusting Him alone as the Rock of their salvation, will stand firmly in the last judgment.

What a contrast Jesus pictures for the faith of the wise man: “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock” (vs. 24). The spiritually wise man builds his life on the bedrock of Jesus’ words, His saving Gospel. His hope is founded only on Jesus’ the rock-solid promise of salvation and eternal life.

The spiritually wise man takes Jesus’ words to heart: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (vs. 21). Wisdom is more than just knowledge of the truth; it is rightly applying the truth in one’s life. The spiritually wise man does not just hear Jesus’ words, but actually builds his life on them. He does the will of God by believing in His Son as his only Savior. As Jesus said in John 6:40: “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

In contrast to many who hear Jesus’ words but do not take them to heart, building instead on the false wisdom and deceitful pleasures of this world, the spiritually wise man builds on Jesus’ truth and eternal salvation. He knows that in the end all his worldly possessions, pleasures, and status will do nothing to save him. He confesses with the hymn: (“What Is the World to Me”)

The world is like a cloud And like a vapor fleeting,

A shadow that declines, Swift to its end retreating.

My Jesus doth abide, Though all things fade and flee;

My everlasting Rock. What is the world to me!

In contrast to many who heard Jesus’ words but did not take them to heart, building instead on the false righteousness of their own works before God, the spiritually wise man builds only on Jesus’ perfect life lived for him and Jesus’ sacrificial death to take away all his sins. He confesses his miserable state as a sinner. He repents and cries out to Jesus, the Rock of Ages:

Not the labors of my hands Can fulfill Thy Law’s demands;

Could my zeal no respite know, Could my tears forever flow,

All for sin could not atone; Thou must save, and Thou alone.

The wise man builds his house on the Rock of his salvation, Christ alone. His life may not appear very wise to the world, but rather foolish. In some ways, his life may look no better than that of an unbeliever, when it comes to the world’s judgment. But God does not look at outward appearance, but at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). The most important part of the believer’s house is invisible. God has provided him with that unseen, yet rock solid foundation in Christ that supports him. God has given him faith that rests securely on this eternal foundation of Christ.

And what a difference this foundation and faith makes when it comes to the storm, as Jesus describes: “The rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock” (vs. 25).

There are many storms that come and go in this life. In the storms we are facing today, we may experience all kinds of hardships, pains, and sorrows; “conflicts on the outside, fears within” (2 Corinthians 7:5). Yet no matter what may come, we stand on the foundation of Christ who lived, died, and rose again for our eternal salvation. He will never fail to support us. In our weaknesses, we can trust His strength to be perfect for us (2 Corinthians 12:9). In our trials, we can trust Him to uphold us (Isaiah 41:9), and to work in all things for our good (Romans 8:28).

But above all, on Christ our solid Rock we stand prepared for the big storm, for that day when this world in its present form will pass away and all shall stand before God in judgment. Many may laugh at what they think to be a foolish house we are building. They may tempt us to stop paying so much attention to our unseen foundation in Christ and His teachings. But what a difference our foundation will make when we are brought before God. Then as now, we will not boast in the great structure of our life, our good works, or anything about ourselves. No, we will boast only in Christ and the salvation He has secured for us. We will boast only in His innocent suffering and death on the cross, by which God has taken away all our sin and guilt. We will boast only in Jesus’ perfect life lived for us, which God is counting to us for our righteousness. We will boast only in Jesus’ resurrection and God’s gift of everlasting life in Him.

Herein is true wisdom, as we hear Jesus’ words, take them to heart by faith, and build our entire life and hope on Him. When the very foundations of this world are being swept away, yet our spiritual house will stand firm in eternity. For we have our foundation on the Rock of our salvation, Jesus Christ. Therefore we sing in the hymn:

My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;

I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.