Grace For The Jouirney
We have been studying in recent weeks a sermon preached by our Lord Jesus. The majority of our Lord’s ministry was that of preaching. Of course, He performed miracles and He healed people of sicknesses, but the majority of His ministry, was defined by preaching. Chapter 6 contains a sermon of our Lord’s referred to often as the “Sermon on the Plain,” a sermon preached on a level ground to hundreds of people, many of whom were His followers and it is to those He is addressing His message.One of the benefits of having your Bible with you and opened before you is that you can see the passage in its context. It helps to see these verses that we are going to study in their proper context. We are going to be studying verses 46-49. These verses are the concluding statements to a message Jesus began preaching back in verse 20 where the Bible says, “Then He lifted up His eyes toward His disciples, and said: ‘Blessed are you poor,’” and so forth. When we read these last verses of the chapter we realize we are reading our Lord’s conclusion to a sermon. He is drawing to a conclusion everything He has been teaching His followers to do.
Jesus has been preaching that true followers of Christ may be blessed though they may not enjoy the temporary blessings of the world like riches, fame, and popularity. They will be blessed when men hate them, exclude them, and revile them, for “great is their reward in heaven.” Jesus teaches His followers to love their enemies, to be merciful, to not be judgmental, to give and to be forgiving. He teaches us to not pick at the petty faults of others without recognizing our own faults, removing the log in our own eyes. He teaches that if we are true followers of Christ, then we will demonstrate this by bearing good fruit. Then He preaches this conclusion to everything He has said in, verses 46-49.
A few years ago there was a popular leadership book written by Jim Collins entitled, Good to Great. It is a book that finds that successful companies and organizations are those who do not just do good things, but aspire to do great things. That book followed another popular book by Collins entitled, Built to Last, a book that examines the successful habits of visionary companies. A visionary company is a company that does not just start well, but finishes well. It is a company “Built to Last.”
If Collins is concerned about companies that are “Built to Last,” our Lord Jesus Christ is concerned with Christians that are “Built to Last.” Jesus is concerned with lives built to last. One need not be an expert builder to understand our Lord’s analogy in these concluding verses of chapter 6. He says that the person who hears all of the teaching of His sermon – and by way of extension, all of the teachings of Christ and all of the teaching of God’s Word – a person who hears our Lord’s teaching but does not live it out is like a man who built his house without a foundation. The rain falls, the streams rise and beat against that house, and it collapses because it was not built to last. On the other hand, the one who hears the Lord’s teaching and lives it out is like a man who builds his house on a good foundation. It lasts. If I were to summarize these verses we would say, “Just as building a house without a foundation results in peril and loss, so hearing Jesus’ words and not doing them results in peril and loss.”
Of course, we do not “do” the things that Jesus teaches in the hopes that doing them will accomplish our salvation from hell. That is, we cannot earn our salvation. We do not get to heaven by being good little boys and girls and doing what Jesus says. No . . .
We are saved by believing
That Jesus perfectly kept
All of God’s commands for us
And died on the cross to
Satisfy God’s wrath directed
At us because of our sin.
Jesus took our place on the cross, taking the punishment we deserved and dying as our substitute. We are saved on the basis of our believing what Christ has done for us. We believe He lived a perfect life and died on the cross, was buried, and rose the third day that we may be declared “not guilty.” This is the Gospel.
If we believe the Gospel, then we will live out our lives in keeping with what our Lord commands. We are committed to Christ. Believers, Christians, keep our Lord’s commands because we are committed to Him. We do what He says. We are not concerned with doing what He says in order to get into heaven. We do what He says because we believe He has taken care of our getting into heaven Himself and we do what He says because we love Him, thank Him, and we commit our lives to Him. We obey because He has saved us.
The scary thing here is that these words are directed at those who claim to be followers of Christ. Jesus is talking to those who say they are Christians. It is a warning. He may be speaking then to a number of us reading right now. We say we are followers of Christ – but are we really? Have we deceived ourselves into merely thinking we are followers of Christ? Are we on the path that leads to life, or on the path that leads to destruction? Look at what Jesus says in verse 46, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?” Jesus is asking, “Why do you claim to follow me with your lips, but fail to follow me with your lives? Why play the part of a play actor, a hypocrite, who says one thing and does another?” Applied directly to Jesus’ sermon on the plain, we “say” we are Christians, yet we do not forgive others. We speak to the Lord, we say, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but we fail to show mercy. We say, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but we criticize others, we judge others, and we hate others. We will not forgive our spouse, our children, our co-worker, or our fellow church member. Jesus says, “Where do you get off with this business of calling me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not doing what I say?”
Those of us familiar with the Book of James can hardly read this passage without continually hearing James echoing the teaching of our Lord in James 1:22-25, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”
Mere verbal profession in Christ does not save. Verbal profession is important and essential, but verbal profession alone does not save a person. You can say that Jesus is Lord. You can pray a prayer and be baptized and still be lost. When we baptize people, we do not baptize them because we have this absolute assurance that they are saved. No one really knows that at the moment of baptism. We baptize based on a person’s profession of faith. They confess that Jesus is Lord, but no one really knows if they mean business until that life is lived out. If a person sincerely believes Jesus is Lord, then he or she will keep Jesus’ commands. He or she will live a life that “bears fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8).
Jesus is speaking here to those who say they are Christians, and He wants us to consider whether we really are. When Jesus says here that the man who hears His Word and does nothing is like the man who builds His house without a foundation, and that the storm comes and the house falls, He is talking about the judgment. He is talking about judgment day. When He says these last words here in verse 49, “and the ruin of that house was great,” He is talking about a life that did not stand in the judgment. That is especially clear in Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus makes the same point. He says in Matthew 7:21-23, “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!’”
Jesus is speaking here to those who say they are Christians and He wants us to consider whether we really are. If we really are followers of Christ, we will do what He says.
What does it mean to follow and obey Christ? Let me give you points to consider regarding this issue . . .
I. Build On The Right Foundation.
Jesus says that the man who hears His sayings and does them is like a man who builds his house on the right foundation. He dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. We must build our lives upon the rock of our Lord’s commands.
Do not hear this in the abstract. Do not hear it as some nice analogy that someone else needs to get. Ask yourself, “Do I love the Lord’s commands and want to live by them? Do I enjoy hearing His Word and living it out? Is it my inclination to do what Jesus says in His Word or, do I find myself justifying my actions and explaining away my failure to forgive my spouse, or to show mercy to my co-workers, or to love my enemies? Do I really love those who hate me? Does my life give evidence to the fact that I have built my life on the right foundation?”
II. Building On The Right Foundation Is Not Always Easy.
If you had observed these two houses going up in your neighborhood, you would note that one went up a little more quickly than the other. The builder of the first house seemed to be taking forever, digging a huge hole in the ground and doing something down there for weeks. The other guy, however, did not seem to waste any time at all, but immediately began to build the first level and off he went. I pray you did not make a note to yourself and say, “You know, if I ever need to build a house, I am going to contract the second guy to do the work. He is quick. I do not know what in the world’s going on with that first guy.” What is going on with that first guy is that he is taking pains to build his house carefully on a solid, rock foundation. It takes time and it is not always easy. It comes by virtue of blood, sweat, and tears.
Likewise, building your life on the Word of God is not always easy. It does not “just happen.” It requires hard work. For example . . .
A) Listening To God’s Word Is Not Always Easy.
Right? It requires hard work to take the time necessary to open God’s Word and to hear from Him. Listening to the Word requires discipline. We read from His Word daily to ensure that we are laying the right foundation for our lives. Sometimes what we read and hear in the Word hurts us. Jesus says in Matthew 6:14-15, for example, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” And that sometimes hard to hear and it convicts our hearts. Or, Jesus calls us out on our hypocrisy and that hard to take. Amy Carmichael, the famous missionary to India who served there for 55 years without furlough said, “If you have never been hurt by a Word from God, it is probable that you have never heard God speak.”
Listening to the Word of God is not always easy. It requires hard work and discipline. Kent Hughes, pastor emeritus at College Church in Wheaton, Illinois notes the challenge of listening to biblical preaching in a worship service. He asks. “What can we do to become and be good hearers of the Word in church? Pray – for the preacher and for yourself. Come prepared to listen, understanding that listening is work. The will to concentrate is fundamental. We cannot listen to God’s Word the way we watch TV – kicked back with a bag of chips in hand or pleasant daydreams occupying our minds. Keep your Bible open to the sermon text and turn to the other passages that are cited. Take notes. One of the curious by-products of the Great Awakening in America [a time of powerful revival in the 1700s and again in the 1800s] was a sudden interest in shorthand. It was not unusual to see men and women, quill pens in hand, carrying portable inkwells as they hurried to a preaching service on the village green. The same thing happened in Scotland under similar circumstances. Revived hearts lead to scribbling hands.’
Listening to the Word is not always easy and . . .
B) Doing The Word is Not Always Easy.
It is not always easy to forgive those who hurt us. It is not always easy to love those who persecute us. It is not always easy to restrain our tongues from criticizing or condemning others, but we ARE to do these things. They are not optional. Hearing and doing go together. In fact, the best way to really learn anything is by doing. We hear that we are to forgive and to show mercy and to love others so what do we do? This week we put that teaching into practice. We do it. We do love, we do mercy, we do forgiveness. For some of us that will mean that we will make a phone call to someone this week, for others we will write a note or send a card. Some of us will need to change something we are doing at work or school. We will do the Word. What is it that you need to do this week?
Build on the right foundation, and know that building on the right foundation is not always easy. Number three . . .
III. Building On The Right Foundation Ensures Your Building Will Last.
We need to remember, Jesus is speaking primarily concerning Judgment Day. If we build our lives on the rock-solid foundation of God’s Word, hearing what our Lord teaches and then doing what our Lord teaches, then we will demonstrate that we are truly committed to Him. The building of our lives will stand in the judgment. When the rain falls and the streams beat vehemently against our lives, when we stand before the judgment seat of our Lord, we will not be shaken because our lives have been built on the rock. But if we have not built our lives on the Word of God, we will fall in the judgment. We will hear our Lord say, “I never knew you. Depart from Me you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23).
This verse also means that our lives will stand the test of any storm in this world. Come what may, financial hardship, job loss, troubled marriage, we will stand and not be shaken by the storms of life. When the rain falls and the streams rise, a life built on God’s Word will stand. When the storm comes, a marriage built on God’s Word will stand, a relationship built on God’s Word is a relationship built to last.
I heard about a guy who happened to notice one day as he was looking out his window that somebody was building something near his home. He watched each day as construction workers cleared the land and moved dirt and trucks rolled in and out. The guy said that the first thing he saw them do was to pour a big concrete slab and then put this big steel looking box on top of the slab. There was just this big box on the slab and the guy figured that this must be some kind of storage shed or something the workers kept their tools in. But after a day or two the workers began to build a concrete wall all around that big box. Then they added drywall and now the guy is wondering what in the world they are building over there.
His curiosity gets the best of him and he goes over to them and he says, “I have been watching you guys each day and I saw you pour this foundation and put this box in the middle and then build a wall around it and I am just wondering what in the world you are building?!” And the construction worker said, “Oh, we’re building a bank. That box you’re talking about with the wall all around it there is the vault.” The guy explained that when you build a bank you build the central and most important part of the bank first and then you build everything else around it. Because of the large size of the vault and its heavy weight, they had to start with it because they later would not be able to fit it through the door. And because of the importance of that vault, that it would contain all manner of riches, and treasures, and wealth, it was the key part of that building and so they wanted to be sure they got it right and then built everything else around the centrality of that vault.
When you build a church, when you build a family, when you build a relationship, and when you build a life, make sure that the most important part is in place – the Bible. Then you build everything else around it. Because the Bible contains all the riches and treasures and wealth of the Gospel it is the key part of our lives and everything else must be built around the centrality of the Bible. When we do this our lives are “Built to Last.”
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”