Having described the kind of people in His Kingdom and the exceedingly high standard of righteousness which Kingdom citizens must follow, Jesus began issuing an invitation for us to enter the Kingdom of Heaven… to enter life (7.13-14). He then warned against dangers which could lead us off the narrow way, namely false teachers (7.15-20) and self-deception (7.21-23). But how can we be certain that we are on the right path, that we are in fact heading toward life? Jesus gives us the key in Matthew 7.24-27… those who hear AND do His will can know that heaven is their reward.
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26 “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 “The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” (Matthew 7.24-27)
Throughout the sermon Jesus has warned against using the wrong foundation. Mediocre righteousness (5.20), popular approval (6.1,5,16) and comparative morality (7.1-5) are all ways we can be fooled into thinking we are right with God, that we are on firm foundation. But only one foundation is sure, only one foundation is firm enough to withstand to the end. “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them…”
Significantly, God foretold in the Old Testament that He would lay a foundation in Zion: “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.” (Isaiah 28.16). Jesus is the foundation, the stone which the Jews rejected but is man’s only means of salvation (Acts 4.11-12). But here Jesus says His words are the foundation, that we can stand on solid ground only by hearing and acting on them. The point: Jesus is your foundation only if you hear and obey Him. To not obey Him is to not have Him! “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father” (John 14.21).
Without stretching Jesus’ illustration too far, we can imagine that the two houses looked much the same. But one builder went to much greater trouble to insure that his house would stand. “The wise builder took the time to dig to solid footing (Luke 6:48). It was laborious and time-consuming, but his house and all he was to put into it, even his own life, were at stake. He took the long look and considered more than present sunny skies. It was the inevitable storm for which he built. The fool built for the moment and without foresight. Whatever could be done with little effort and achieve quick results attracted him. He presumed that the way things were was the way they would always be. The idea that his house might be severely tested appears never to have entered his mind. He doubtless had his house up and furnished before his struggling neighbor had even completed his foundation.” (Paul Earnhart)
Similarly, some approaches to religion are much simpler than what Jesus requires. While we must not lessen the importance of grace and faith, it is quite easy to claim that God’s grace covers all or that a statement of faith is all God requires. It is much more difficult to obey all our Lord’s commands (Matthew 28.20) because we believe God’s grace has made this righteousness possible. “Those who build their lives upon “the rock” are saying two things: that they are determined to keep the word of Christ at all costs, and that they are trusting His redemptive blood for mercy upon their failures. Obedience, in the kingdom of heaven, has never been a means of justification from sin, but a way to express faith (James 2:14–6) and love (John 14:15–21, 23; 15:10–14). If there is any other way to demonstrate these two indispensable qualities of kingdom life they are unknown to Scripture.” (Paul Earnhart)
The storm is coming. Whether you build on the rock or the sand, the storm is coming. While we think of trials as being the “storm of life”, it is evident that Jesus is not referring to those temporary struggles, but the ultimate storm: the Judgment. Sham religion might look authentic just as the fool’s house resembled the house of the wise man. But when Judgment comes, all is revealed and only the firm foundation can hold.
Some might question whether Jesus is trying to frighten us into following Him? In short, yes He is… and why shouldn’t He? “Some people may well be drawn to Christ because of the attraction of forgiveness; others may feel the first stirrings of desire to follow him when they first glimpse the immensity of his love or the integrity of his life, or when they experience the shame engendered by his scrutiny. But not a few will come only because they see that the issues with which Jesus is concerned are eternal issues—ultimately, nothing less than heaven and hell.” (D.A. Carson)
28 When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; 29 for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes. (Matthew 7.28-29)
The rabbis of Jesus’ day were found of appealing to teachers and rabbis of the past in their teaching. Jesus appealed to none of them for He spoke with the authority of God. “You have heard that the ancients were told… but I say to you.” “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them.” He appeals to His own authority, and holds us responsible to follow His words as the words of God. “It is inevitable that the voice of God will sound like the voice of God, and the voice of man like the voice of man.” (Paul Earnhart)
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