Life Upside Down
Introduction and Review
The Sermon on the Mount has been about kingdom living from a heart that truly loves God. Jesus has directed our thoughts through many aspects of how we live our lives as Christians and He has always related it back to the motivation of our heart. It is as though He has been comparing the nature of what true righteousness looks like with the nature of self-motivated righteousness. Simply stated: “Why do we do what we do?” What motivates us? As I look back over Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7, what we call Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, I am once again reminded that Jesus is focusing on the heart of all we do.
In the Beatitudes of the first sixteen verses of Matthew chapter 5, we found that our life as a believer should be a reflection of God’s character. As we live each day as Kingdom citizens, we will not only have Kingdom influence, but we will experience suffering in this world also. We should rejoice in persecution when it is because we are living for our King, King Jesus.
In His sermon, Jesus has also addressed things like the heart of reconciliation, a heart’s desire for restoration of broken relationships, the intent of our heart when it comes to lust, adultery, and divorce. He said that truth should come from our lips as a natural reflection of God in our heart. Jesus encourages us to see beyond the complexities of our relationships and love our enemies.
Jesus has warned us about pretentious giving and praying to be seen by others just, so we can be seen as religiously pious people. He tells us that prayer needs to come from the heart. Jesus has shown us the importance of forgiving others, treasuring the things that will be placed into heaven’s treasure chest, and how where our treasure is, there we will find our heart, and what our treasure is becomes the master of our heart and our lives.
Jesus talked about how anxiety is a position of the heart that refuses to trust God with the outcome of our lives. He told us to be careful of judgmentalism when we attempt to help someone remove a splinter of sin from their eye. Then we were reminded how that the most valuable and precious pearl of our relationship with God is trampled in the mud when we live hypocritically as a believer.
Jesus told us that we have a good, caring, and concerned Heavenly Father who gives us everything we ask for in striving to live for Him. Jesus reminded us once again that our vertical relationship with God should be reflected in our horizontal relationships with others as we practice the “Golden Rule” of doing unto others as we would have them do unto us.
Three weeks ago, we began the conclusion of Jesus’ Sermon as He illustrates the decision we have to make when it comes our eternal destinies. We either choose the wide gate, where many travel, a way that is easy, and leads to the destiny of eternal destruction or the narrow gate that few travel, and is hard, but leads to eternal life. He warns us about false prophets who try to deceive us into thinking they are taking us down the narrow path, but we can recognize this deception by their fruit. Jesus warns us about being deceived by our own self-righteousness by thinking we have earned a place in His kingdom by our religious activities. When it is all about our self-righteous activities with no heart for a relationship with Him, Jesus tells us that on the day we stand before Him, He will say to us “Depart from me, I never knew you.
So, in these last six verses, Jesus brings together this sobering and very powerful conclusion about our lives in a genuine relationship with Him. He uses an illustration I think we can all identify with. Let’s read our text.
24 "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
25 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.
26 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.
27 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."
28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching,
29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.
Solid Foundation (vv. 24-25)
Jesus begins this powerful conclusion by saying "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them.” Jesus is drawing attention to the words He has said in this sermon. Why does He focus on what He has spoken in words? The reason is because Jesus has several times contrasted what the people heard from the teachings of the Scribes and Pharisees to what He had to say. It is like Jesus is saying that there is a big difference between what He has said and what the religious establishment has told them. The clear dividing line has been whether a person is a genuine believer or not. So, the illustration Jesus is about to use focuses on the foundation of their beliefs. What they are building the core of their life’s beliefs on.
He begins with the solid foundation of a rock. The word used here is πέτρα, literally, living rock, bedrock, in contrast to πέτρος which is an isolated stone. So, this is like a cliff rock, a massive bedrock that cannot be moved or changed. This foundation is solid, sure, and never changes. Jesus says the person who hears and does what He has said is like a wise man building his house on this kind of foundation. Building a house is used as an illustration of building our spiritual lives.
When we think of our physical homes that we live in, we understand that this is where we conduct life. We live there, raise families there, and enjoy life there. It is a special thing to own your own home and be able to conduct life there. Often, the building of our lives revolves around a house and when this happens, we call this house our home. We want a house that is solid, one that will last, that will endure the storms and still be there for us and our family. Thus, when we buy a house, we want it to have a solid and secure foundation. Why? Because when the storms come, the house will remain solidly founded upon the rock and it will not fall. Our house will be there for us throughout time.
Thus, the person who builds their life upon the words of Jesus Christ, not just hearing His words, but doing them, is building their lives on a rock-solid foundation. A foundation that doesn’t move or change over time. When the storms of life hit, and beat upon our lives, we remain solid because of the foundation we built our lives on, the words of Jesus.
Jesus then contrasts this house on a solid foundation with a house built upon a:
Shifting Foundation (vv. 26-27)
Jesus illustrates a person who hears His words and choses not to do them to a house built upon shifting sand. I think the picture we should have in mind is a wadi in Israel. They are normally dry and flat and look like a nice place to build a house. It is easy to build a house there because it is easy to get to and easy to build upon, as opposed to digging to bedrock.
But when the storms come, the rains fall, and the wadi floods the shifting sands begin to move. The storm beats against this house built on the sand and because it has nothing solid to hold it, the house falls, and great is the fall of it, Jesus says. In the same way, when we build our lives on what the world says, upon the teachings of false prophets, or upon our own self-righteousness, our lives will fall into destruction, eternal destruction.
~ Comparing the Illustrations
Let’s take a moment and do some comparing of Jesus’ two illustrations. First, how are they similar? There is no indication that these houses were built from different materials. They were similar in that they built from the same materials. This has been true in each of Jesus’ illustrations. The false prophet was in sheep’s clothing, the self-righteous person outwardly appears to be a very religious person. These two houses look very much alike. Thus, the houses are similar in construction and both represent a person who outwardly looks like a very spiritual individual.
For instance, what outward difference do we see in a person who does not commit murder and a person who refrains from being angry in his heart? Or how about the outward difference from a person who does not commit adultery and a person who refrains from lust in their heart? Even those who are self-righteous in their actions appear to others as genuinely righteous. Like these two houses, by all outward appearances, the two kinds of people Jesus has been talking about is not easily seen by others.
The second way these two houses are similar is that they will both face the same storms. The terminology is almost identical in its description of the storms. “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house.” Now I am not sure that we can analyze this to the point of saying that the rain represents one difficulty in life, the floods another, and the wind even a third kind of difficulty. What I believe Jesus is illustrating to us is that the storms of life that may begin as what seems as though a rain shower but ends up being a gully washer. It what tests the foundation of the house. But both houses will face the storms.
There are a couple of differences we need to make note of also. First, notice that Jesus refers to one builder as wise, and one builder as foolish. The wise person is one who thinks intelligently and uses insight concerning where he builds and what he builds upon. The foolish person lacks foresight and is not rationally thinking about what he is building upon. Thus, the two builders are very different because of how they use what they know. I believe they both have the same information because that is how Jesus relates the other illustrations, it is simply how they act upon the information they have that is very different.
A second difference is what happens to each of these houses. The storm beat on the wise man’s house, but the storm beat against the foolish man’s house. This is not a difference in the storm, but a difference in how each house is responding to the storm. A house that is not going to fall has the storm beating on it. But a house that is beginning to fall, finds the storm beating against it. And of course, the wise man’s house did not fall, but the foolish man’s house not only fell, but the fall was great, which I believe indicates destruction, the eternal destruction talked about earlier.
When the same kinds of difficult storms hit these two similar looking houses, something hidden becomes very evident, something that is very different. The third difference is the foundations. The wise man took the information he had and rationally/intellectually built his house on solid bedrock. Whereas, the foolish man took the same information and did not rationally apply it to the building of his house and took the easy method of building on the sand. Two very different foundations for their houses.
Almost everyday we have seen this illustration played out in real time in our world. Houses destroyed by raging forest fires, homes sliding down hillsides or buried by mudslides. Hurricanes completely removing homes from their places along the coast. Earthquakes shaking houses to the point of walls falling down and roofs collapsing. Our hearts hurt for those who have lost everything through these devastating circumstances. But Jesus uses this to illustrate what He has been trying to teach us all along. The difference between the wise man and the foolish man is how they respond to what Jesus has said.
We could spend a lot of time talking about all the storms of life we face that threaten us. It can be relationships, loss of possessions due to theft or catastrophes, financial struggles, addictions, health problems, death of loved ones, and on we can go. But the point of the illustration is that we all face storms of some kind, that is a similarity in all our lives. What may be different for some of us is the foundation we are building our lives on. Is it on a genuine relationship with our Lord or is it being built on our self-righteous works?
The wise feel the same pain and storms of life as anyone else. As Romans 8:23 says, “we groan inwardly” waiting for God’s complete redemption when we are with Him in glory. The wise look beyond this present suffering to the joy that will come because their lives are on founded the relationship they have with their Creator. Listen to Romans 8:18.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us.
Why is the Apostle Paul able to say that in our sufferings, His glory is revealed in us? Because our lives are not built on the shifting sands of this world, our lives are built upon the solid rock of a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ. Not a perceived relationship built upon our works, but a genuine relationship built upon His work and our love for Him. The foolish man can have no eternal confidence in his self-righteous works.
Reaction to Jesus’ Words (vv. 28-29)
In verses 28 and 29 it says that the crowds on the hillside were astonished at what they just heard. Why were they so astonished? Because they recognized that what Jesus said to them was had authority. Scribes and Pharisees quoted other rabbis to establish their authority, but Jesus was His own authority, because He is God.
What we must wrestle with now is . . . where do we stand in our relationship with Him? Have we built our lives on shifting sands that will end in eternal destruction or have we been building our lives on the solid rock that never changes that will bring eternal life? Remember, both houses look the same on the outside, but what they build upon is very different. Last week we found that both genuine Christians and self-righteous people look the same in their religious activities. The difference will be found in what Jesus says to them at the end of time. He will either say “Well done good and faithful,” or He will say “Depart from me I never knew you.”
So this is serious, how do we know if we have this genuine relationship Jesus speaks about? Have you ever heard conversations about what it means to be a Christian, what it means to be saved? Often the conversation delves in to what minimum belief or action is necessary for a genuine salvation. We often wonder if people from other denominations are saved and we try to boil salvation down to its minimum. Is it just a prayer where a person says they believe Jesus died for their sins, was buried, and rose again? Or is there some religious activity involved that proves we have Jesus as our Lord? Remember when we talked about faith without works is dead? So, it almost seems as though there must be some resultant activity for genuine salvation, right? But how much? Is there a minimum amount of righteous works that is the result of a genuine salvation?
I read about a large church that said in its annual report they had 28,000 conversions that year with 9,600 baptisms. Our initial reaction is “Wow” until the report showed only 123 additions to the church. So, were 28,000 saved or only 123 or maybe less? We must understand that salvation is not the result of a prayer that is repeated after someone, the walking of the church aisle, or an emotional reaction about our sin. The evidence of salvation is the regeneration of the heart. What do I mean by that?
If you have never done this, I want you to sit down some quiet morning and read the short book of 1 John. Underline every time it uses the word “know.” This epistle is about how you may know if you are genuinely a child of God. 25 times the word know is used in an experiential way and 17 times it is used in an intellectual way. The point is that we must know with our minds that we are saved, but it should result in our way of life. Essentially, we become new creations, the old is past and the new has begun. So, the things we do are a reflection of what has taken place inside us.
Do you see evidence of salvation in your life?
~ Inward desire to know Jesus more?
~ Passion about doing His will and pleasing Him?
~ Change taking place over time?
~ Joy and inner peace more satisfying?
~ Enjoy time in His Word and talking to Him in prayer?
Or is the Christian life a chore, something you have to do because that is what you are supposed to do? Come to church because that is what is expected of a Christian? Pray only when in the presence of others, not in private.
There are many self-examining questions that we can ask, but it really boils down to who has control of your heart? Are you a wise builder, or a foolish builder? Today we have many people in our churches that look like Christians on the outside, but have no genuine relationship with the Lord.
Which response will you get from Jesus on judgment day?
- Depart from Me I never knew you
- Well done good and faithful servant