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Matthew 7:24-291

Introduction

You know what they say are the three most important considerations in real estate:

Location. Location. Location.

That’s not just true in real estate. It’s also true about life.

Today we’re going to study a parable. It’s an illustration, a metaphor about real estate and about life. It’s a picture that Jesus painted about a choice that each of us has to make: what street do you want to live on?

Nobody likes to be told what to do. Given the choice, most of us would choose to be given a choice. We want selection. We like to leave our options open. We want to be able to decide things for ourselves. And fortunately for us, we have a choice.

Series: You Have a Choice!

God lets us decide certain things for ourselves. As we continue our study of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, we’ve come to the final section, where Jesus presents his followers with three important choices:

Where are you going? Who are your guides? and What will you change?

We’ve talked about the first choice, Where Are You Going?

We saw that we are presented with two paths in life. One is a broad path where the going is easy and the travelers are many. That path looks like the right one, but it leads to death. And then there is another path: narrow, twisted and torturous. Not many people find it, but that path leads to life. In fact, that is the only path that leads to life. Jesus says we get to choose which of those two paths we will take.

We also talked about the second choice, Who Are Your Guides?

Last week we saw that there are all kinds of voices out there claiming to tell us the truth: preachers, politicians, philosophers, books and movies.

Jesus says we need to be on the lookout for false teachers: people who claim to tell us the truth, but don’t. How do we know the difference? We compare what they say to the Bible. We evaluate their fruit: the long-term effect of their teaching. Not everyone who speaks in the name of Jesus tells the truth. Not everyone who names God knows God. A man’s relationship with God is demonstrated by what he does, not by what he says. So we must choose which teachers we will follow.

Today we come to our third choice: What Will You Change?

Jesus says that your life is like a house and you can choose to build your house on one of Two Foundations. You are free to make the choice. God gives you that freedom. But as you decide, there is something you should know about these two foundations. One of them works and the other one doesn’t. One of them is solid and dependable. The other is unreliable and sure to bring you disaster.

The path you choose determines whether or not you find the WAY.

The teacher you choose determines whether or not you find the TRUTH.

The foundation you choose determines whether or not you will find LIFE.

What kind of foundation have you chosen?

Let’s begin by picking up a verse that we looked at last week:

[21] "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

We saw that the person whom God accepts into heaven is not the one who says he has a relationship with him, but rather the one who really does have a relationship with him and demonstrates it by his or her actions. This verse is a contrast between talkers and doers.

But in verse 24, Jesus is making a contrast between hearers and doers. It’s about those who are listening to the truth that Jesus is teaching there on the mountain. He’s speaking to his audience. He’s speaking to us.

And he says that we all have a choice. We have all heard his words. The question is, now what? There are two ways to respond to the truth that you’ve heard through Jesus’ teaching. You have a choice. Are you going to do it, put it into practice? Or, are you going to settle for simply hearing it? In other words, now that you’ve heard the Sermon on the Mount, what will you change?

Doing the Truth

Jesus describes your choice by comparing your two options to two houses built on two different foundations. The first house represents those who are changed by the truth—those who do something about what they’ve heard. Jesus describes that kind of person in verse 24:

Matthew 7:24-29 [24] "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

Each of us builds the house of our lives through our actions, our words, and our attitudes. With each decision, we lay a new brick, nail a new board.

The word wise means “thoughtful”, “sensible”.

The key thing here in the building is the foundation. Here there is an emphasis not just on hearing, but on application, follow through—actually doing the truth, acting upon what you have heard, putting the truth into practice. Doing truth is what Jesus calls the foundation of rock.

Notice that Jesus focuses in on “these words of mine”, drawing a parallel between his words and “the will of my Father in heaven” in the previous verses. Jesus is claiming essentially that his words are God’s will.

When we hear God’s word, we have a choice. We can be content with being informed—or we can put it into practice. We can allow it to change our lives.

The huge difference is in the outcome. Jesus describes the results of this decision in his parable of the house:

[25] The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.

The hurricane that Jesus is describing here is most likely a reference to the final judgment when we all stand before God. That will be the ultimate test of our character. But I think that when he says this, Jesus also has in mind the hurricane that each of us faces in simply living life.

When difficult times come, when our beliefs and our values and our choices are tested, the outcome will depend upon whether or not we applied God’s word to our lives. The rain, the flooding streams, and the strong winds all represent the hurricane of life. Life is messy.

It throws us some pretty challenging problems, some very severe disappointments, an onslaught of stressful trials. Many of you are going through that dark side of life right now. You’re in the middle of the hurricane force winds. Life is taxing every ounce of energy and faith and hope that you have. You may be having days when you’re not sure you’re going to make it.

What Jesus is saying here is that your ability to weather the storm of life depends entirely upon one thing: your foundation. Have you put God’s word into practice? Are you doing what you’ve been taught? If you have, then you will be able to stand against the onslaught. You will survive the hurricane, because you have a solid foundation to stand on. You have allowed God’s word to shape your beliefs, your values and your choices.

This parable comes in two parts and here’s the first part:

 

Doing the Truth
will protect you

(24-25)

 

The Builder

wise

 

The Foundation

rock

 

The Hurricane

rain flood winds

The Result

did not fall

 

Jesus says that doing the truth will protect you from the storms of life.

The person who recognizes that and builds his life around putting God’s word into practice is a wise, thoughtful builder. He has chosen a sturdy, rock-solid foundation. So when the hurricane of life blows cold and hard against him, he will not fall. He will not crumble.

Example: Noah obeyed God and was protected.

Hearing the Truth

There’s a second part to this parable. Beginning in verse 26, Jesus describes a second house—one which represents those who hear the truth but are not changed by it. They have chosen a different foundation for the building of their life.

[26] But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.

Here again the builder assembles the house of his life through his actions, his words, and his attitudes. With each decision, he lays a new brick, nails a new board. But this time the builder is foolish. He chooses a foundation that is shifting, unstable, and undependable.

Notice something very important here. The foolish builder Jesus is describing is not someone who has no idea what God’s word says.

Jesus isn’t contrasting those who go to church with those who don’t.

He isn’t talking about those who read the Bible as opposed to those who don’t. Both the wise builder and the foolish builder are described as people who “hear these words of mine.” Both of them hear the truth. Both of them know the truth. The difference between these two builders is that one of them acts on the truth and the other one doesn’t. One of them practices the truth and the other one doesn’t. One of them is changed by the truth and the other one is simply well informed and educated about the truth.

Hearing the truth but not doing it is what Jesus calls a foundation of sand.

When we hear God’s word, we have a choice. We can be content with being well-informed—or we can put it into practice. We can allow it to change our lives.

Once again, the huge difference is in the outcome. Jesus describes the results of complacency about God’s words:

[27] The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."

When difficult times come, when our beliefs and our values and our choices are tested, the outcome will depend upon whether or not we applied God’s word to our lives. At that point it doesn’t really matter whether or not you have heard God’s word. The only thing that matters is whether or not you have done anything about it.

Your ability to weather the storm of life depends entirely upon your foundation. Have you put God’s word into practice? Are you doing what you’ve been taught? If you have not, then you will not be able to stand against the onslaught of life. The hurricane will overcome you because you have no solid foundation on which to stand.

So here’s the second part of the parable.

 

Doing the Truth
will protect you

(24-25)

Hearing the Truth
doesn’t matter

(26-27)

The Builder

wise

foolish

The Foundation

rock

sand

The Hurricane

rain flood winds

The Result

did not fall

fell with great crash

Simply hearing the truth doesn’t matter. Hearing alone does nothing to protect you from the storms of life. The person who builds his life without practicing God’s word is a foolish builder. It doesn’t matter how well he knows God’s word, how much he’s studied or read. It doesn’t matter how many years he’s gone to church. He has chosen a foundation that will fail. So when the hurricane of life blows cold and hard against him, his house will fall. And his destruction will be great.

God tells us the truth for a reason: He loves us. He wants us to have the very best life we can, abundant and full of meaning. He wants us to live forever in the wonderful place he’s created for us, where there is no deceit, no treachery, no unkindness. And so he tells us how we can do that. He tells us the truth.

Now, here’s our reaction: why is God trying to ruin all our fun? Why does he limit us and keep us from enjoying all these attractive pleasures that we see all around us. Why has he put so many things “off limits”—things that look good, wise, harmless, entertaining, exciting, cool and fun?

You know what the truth is? The truth is that God loves us so much that he tells us the difference between what is good for us and what will destroy us. The things that will destroy us, ruin our relationships, damage our health, steal our joy, and devastate our sense of fulfillment—those things God calls “sin”, and he tells us to stay away from it because sin will kill us. The wages of sin is death.

That is exactly what this verse is talking about here. When we hear the truth and choose to live by it, that truth protects us from sin’s destruction. But so often we hear the truth and choose to leave it at that, perhaps because we don’t trust it, or because we have some other option that we like better. But if we choose to simply hear the truth without following it, then we will be destroyed by the devastating effects of sin. Sin is a poison. It always kills. That’s why God wants us to stay away from it. Sin will tear down your house and it will fall with a great crash.

Please don’t let that happen.

Let’s get real specific. I’m not here to pretend that I’m any better than anyone else. This isn’t a contest. But you know already know what you’re tolerating in your life that God calls sin. And it’s important that you’re honest with yourself about whatever sin is in your life.

Are you being less than honest in your business or in your words?

Are you sleeping with someone you’re not married to?

Are you selfishly collecting things for yourself instead of being generous?

Are you holding a grudge, refusing to forgive the one who wronged you?

Do you gossip, condemn, or harshly criticize other people?

I could go on, but you know what? So could you. You know what it is in your life, and right now God’s Spirit is reminding you that it is sin.

You have heard the words of Jesus. Are you going to do anything about it? You have a choice. Will the truth make a difference in your life?

Will Truth Make a Difference in Your Life?

There’s another verse in James where he reminds us of this same idea:

James 1:22, 25 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. …[25] The man who …continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it--he will be blessed in what he does.

We church going folk get really good at hearing the truth. We listen to sermons. We read books. We go to Bible studies and small groups.

Some of us even go to seminary.

But what really matters is whether or not that truth is making a difference in your life. That is the choice you have to make. That is what determines whether or not you experience God’s blessing and protection.

------------------------------

With that astounding thought, the Sermon on the Mount ends.

And then Matthew records the reaction to what Jesus had taught:

[28] When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, [29] because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

The thing that amazed the crowds was that Jesus taught with authority.

The teachers in his day, called rabbis, would usually teach by citing a long list of previous rabbis who had answered a particular question or interpreted a certain passage. But Jesus spoke as one who had the authority on his own to speak directly about the kingdom, about the meaning of the law, about the future, about God’s requirements, and about how we ought to act and think. The way Jesus taught them left them amazed. They were probably amazed both at his words and at the way he delivered them.

However, interestingly enough, this verse doesn’t say anything about the kind of response that the teaching of Jesus had in the lives of those who heard him that day. Being amazed doesn’t change anything. Perhaps some of the people in the crowd that heard Jesus actually did something with what they had heard. Unfortunately, probably most of them were simply amazed.

We’ve spent the last year studying the Sermon on the Mount. You’ve heard the words that Jesus intended for you. Personally, I’m amazed at what he’s said in these three crucial chapters of Matthew. I hope you’re amazed too. But the most important question is what’s next. When you go home, how are you going to leave? Informed? Amazed? Or changed?

What Will You Change?

You have a choice—you can either choose to embrace God’s word and put it into practice in your life, or you can hear it and then walk away unchallenged and unchanged. If you choose to apply God’s word, to shape your life according to its teachings, then you are forming a stable foundation for your life which will allow you to endure and survive the difficulties and challenges that you will face in this life. God wants to protect us from the great damage that sin can do in our lives. The reason he says “no” to certain things is because they are dangerous, poisonous and destructive. He wants to spare us from tragedy. So he warns us and if we heed his instructions, then we will be protected. On the other hand, if you hear God’s word and then you choose not to act upon it, not to shape your life according to its teachings, then you are unprotected from the destruction of sin and the dangers of a fallen world.

It does no good to hear God’s word if you don’t do anything about it.

So, you’ve heard God’s Word. You’ve heard the words of Jesus that he taught his followers that day on the mountain. You’ve heard. The question is, “What are you going to do about it? What will you change?”


1 Copyright © 2004 by Lewis B. Bell III. This is the edited manuscript of Lesson 3 in the Kingdom Choices series delivered by Chip Bell at Fellowship Bible Church Arapaho in Dallas, TX on December 12, 2004. Anyone is at liberty to use this lesson for educational purposes only, with credit.

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