Are You Building Your Life on the Solid Rock of Jesus Christ or the Shifting Sand of Man?
O Lord, our blessed God and Savior, we pray that You would be with us today and every day. Help us both to hear and treasure Your eternal truths. Lead us to use them as the basis for our present lives and our future hopes. Preserve our faith. Increase our love. We ask these blessings in Jesus' name. Amen.
Moses urged the children of Israel to treasure God's Word and to teach it to their children. If they kept God's Word, they would be blessed in the land the Lord would give them. If they refused to obey God's Word, they would be cursed. Let us ever treasure and keep God's Word and so also experience God's rich blessing!
All people have sinned and have fallen short of God's perfect standard. All people have likewise been justified by God's grace through the redemptive work of Jesus. We receive the blessing of that redemption by faith in Jesus--not by our good works!
Text: Matthew 7:21-29
"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. 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. 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: and 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. Now 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: and the rains descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall." And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
In Christ Jesus, our Lord, our Savior, our Judge, dear fellow redeemed:
If the trumpet of God were to sound at this moment and the final Day of Judgment were upon us, which words would you hear? Would you hear those glorious words, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34)? Or would you hear those terrifying words, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41)? Jesus, of course, is addressing different people—those on the one hand who embrace Him by faith and those on the other hand who reject Him in unbelief. Believers in Jesus can have every confidence that they will rejoice with their Lord and Savior throughout eternity. Equally as certain, however, is the judgment of eternal death in hell that faces those who reject Jesus in unbelief.
Jesus’ words, as our text opens, are so very striking for they suggest that some people who consider themselves to be believers really are not. Jesus says, “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. 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.” My dear friends, having an intellectual knowledge of salvation without that knowledge touching your heart is not enough. Claiming to believe, but rejecting the lordship of Jesus Christ in and over your life will not do. Devoting your life to public ministry without genuine faith will not gain you eternal life. Jesus wants disciples who will “do the will” of His Father in heaven! He does, after all, tell us, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). That leads us to the comparison Jesus makes in the remainder of our text, and the question I would ask each of you to answer for yourselves based on that comparison. ARE YOU BUILDING YOUR LIFE ON THE SOLID ROCK OF JESUS CHRIST OR THE SHIFTING SAND OF MAN?
Jesus says, “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: and 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. Now 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: and the rains descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”
What is the “rock” upon which the “wise man” built his house? The “rock” is nothing other than Jesus Christ Himself and the truths He reveals in the Bible. Jesus, alluding to an Old Testament prophecy and referring to the fact that many of His fellow Jews were opposing Him, called Himself “the stone which the builders rejected” and points out that God had made Him “the chief cornerstone” (Matthew 21:42). St. Paul, picking up that same thought identifies “the apostles and prophets”—the Bible itself as the foundation of our faith, “Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20). What does it mean that Jesus is to be our “cornerstone”? While in our day a cornerstone is decorative and commemorative, in Jesus’ day the cornerstone was the most important stone in a building. It was the first stone laid and it had to be cut with perfect dimensions, for all of the lines of the building were sighted off of that one stone. Consequently, when we speak about Jesus being the cornerstone, we are saying that our faith and lives are to be determined and judged by what Jesus is and by what Jesus says.
Is your personal life build upon the rock of Christ? Do you believe the words of our New Testament lesson from the book of Romans? Do you recognize that you are truly sinful and unworthy of God’s love and blessing? Yes, we confessed that truth this morning, as we do every Sunday morning, but are the words you spoke truly reflective of the innermost thoughts of your hearts? Or do you really believe yourself to be a pretty good person, who really does not need to depend upon Jesus’ blood and righteousness? You and I build upon the rock of Christ, when we join David as he confesses in Psalm 51, “I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight—that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge” (Verses 3-4). It is only when we understand and frankly confess our sins, that we can truly appreciate the fact that God has “justified (us) freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus!” (Romans 3:24).
You and I build upon the rock of Christ, when having been justified by faith in Christ Jesus, we are determined to live our lives in accordance with God’s word. St. Paul tells us that “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10). Jesus accused those who claimed to believe and follow Him—even to have prophesied in His name and to have performed miracles in His name—of “practicing lawlessness.” We cannot claim to believe in Jesus as our Savior, and then turn away from Him and ignore His lordship in our lives. We cannot claim to believe in Jesus and then take sin lightly. St. John, in his first epistle, says, “This is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment” (3:23). “Love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10). Consequently, if we are building our houses upon the rock of Christ, we will want to fulfill God’s law by practicing the art of love in our lives. That means on a very practical level, children, that you “obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1). This means, parents, that you take seriously the directives of Moses as you heard them in our Old Testament lesson. The word of God is to occupy a prominent place and role within your family life. Moses says, “You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 11:19). Spirituality cannot be an on-again, off-again, one day a week ritual in our homes. Rather, we are to live and breathe the love of God in Christ, applying His word to our every word and action, day by day, year in and year out. Will we fail? Of course we will! You do not build a house without bending a few nails or cutting a few boards short. But that is where father and son, mother and daughter learn the art of saying, "I am sorry that I hurt you," and that is when we hear those blessed words, “I forgive you and I do love you!”
My dear friends, ARE YOU BUILDING YOUR LIFE ON THE SOLID ROCK OF JESUS CHRIST? The alternative is to build upon THE SHIFTING SANDS OF MAN! What are the sands of man? They are any and all of the thoughts, which dominate and inspire the world in which we live. They range from the "feel good" theology of positive thinkers, who attempt to pump people up with the thought of their own goodness; to the elaborate systems of religious works found within so many of the world religions, which suggest that if only you follow these laws or those guidelines with a pure enough devotion, you will gain everlasting bliss; to those who advocate outright rebellion against God and everything for which He stands! You will find row upon row of books advocating such drivel in bookstores such as Barnes & Noble and B. Dalton Booksellers across our country. Such nonsense is poison to our souls, for if we do spend our time seeking the power within, if we rely upon ourselves for all the answers, or simply believe we will find fulfillment and contentment in satisfying our every whim, we will only be sadly disappointed. In the end as the Bible so clearly testifies, “we are (but) dust” (Psalm 103:14), and we will return to dust (Ecclesiastes 12:7). Surely, as Isaiah pointed out twenty-seven hundred years ago, “All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field…. The grass withers , the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (40:6,8).
As we concluded our discussion of the biblical teaching of predestination in our mid-week Bible study last Wednesday, one of those in attendance commented on how humbling Christianity is. Christianity is most humbling, for it requires that every human being recognize his or her sins and failures, all of which deserve God’s just judgment. However, Christianity is also most ennobling, for it alone provides an ultimate solution for sin—the gracious forgiveness of God in and through Jesus Christ. We, who by nature are lost in sin, are by faith in Christ declared righteous in God’s sight, His children and heirs according to His certain promises! Our Savior God has promised to work in our hearts and lives through His blessed word and sacraments to strengthen us and direct us in spiritual truths, which will provide a solid foundation for our lives and absolute confidence with regard to our futures. ARE YOU BUILDING YOUR LIFE ON THE SOLID ROCK OF CHRIST OR THE SHIFTING SAND OF MAN? Each and every one of us must answer that question. Each and every one of us will experience the results, which flow from our answer. May we be wise builders during our time of grace here in this world! Amen
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting