10 The day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. 11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
17 Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
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. 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. 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. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.
Last Sunday we considered what is sometimes called the “exclusivity of the Gospel.” Our key verse was Acts 4:12, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” This is what the Bible proclaims, and as Bible-believing Christians, we stand on the truth of Jesus Christ. No amount of reinterpretation will change the fact that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Forgiveness for our sins and salvation is found in Christ, and in Christ alone.
Today we move on to the next step, if you like. Once we have decided to take Jesus at His word and have accepted salvation through His death on the cross, we need to understand that it doesn’t end there. We are not to just sit back, but rather, our faith needs to be applied, but we have to make sure that we apply our faith on God’s truth, and not our own version of it.
The reason the Leaning Tower of Pisa is leaning is because it is built on a faulty foundation, and the reason so many Christians’ faith is tottering is because their faith is built on a faulty foundation.
We’ve all heard Jesus’ parable of the two builders who each built a house on two different types of foundations with two different results. Here Jesus teaches us that the foundation upon which we build the house of our lives is of the utmost importance. The foundation of your life matters.
This parable comes right at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, which begins in chapter 5 with the Beatitudes, which we looked at in some detail over the past couple of months. Three chapters later, and Jesus now wraps up His teaching with this parable. When He begins it in verse 24 He says, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine.” This is important. “These words of mine” are what He has just been preaching during the previous 3 chapters. You need to read Matthew 5-7 in detail in order to see what He was talking about, but very briefly, He had taught them principles like being salt and light. He addressed issues of murder, adultery, divorce, revenge and forgiveness. He spoke about giving to the poor, fasting, storing up treasures in Heaven and not judging others. Then just before the parable of the builders He spoke about the narrow and the wide gates. There’s the exclusivity of the Gospel again, and finally He teaches that His true disciples will be recognised by their fruit. There will be evidence of faith. And now He says, “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.”
The two builders in our parable had a lot in common, but there were also key differences.
Firstly, we’ll take a look at the similarities.
As in the parable of the sower, they both heard the words of Jesus.
The two people in this parable both heard Jesus share His message of faith and repentance. They both heard the Gospel and both reacted to it.
They both built houses. Each of these people built a house based on their understanding of what Jesus said. The house in this parable is a picture of a life. In other words, each man built a life based on how they interpreted the message of Jesus. This means that both people believed the message to a certain point. They each applied the words of Jesus to their life as they saw fit.
They built their houses in the same location. Verse 27 describes a severe storm. This storm affected both houses, so they must have been built in close proximity to one another.
Their houses were similar looking. Nothing is said about their houses being different. They used similar materials, and most likely, a similar design. From the outside, these two homes looked the same. In fact, they were so similar, you might not have been able to tell them apart, much like at first glance, all Christians “look the same.” We say the same things, and to the outside world we are the same, but beneath the surface, in the heart where it really counts, there are often huge differences.
This parable is a picture of people and how they respond differently to the Gospel message. Just to clarify, the Gospel is actually very simple. Here it is again, as the apostle Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, He was buried, and He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
That is the message that must be believed and proclaimed in order for a person to be saved.
Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Salvation is as simple as believing the Gospel. Of course, one of the key words in Romans 10:9 is ‘confess.’ Salvation involves faith in the Gospel, but it also involves confession and repentance of sin, and a willingness to yield to the Lordship and control of Jesus Christ in your life.
So people hear the message, and they react to it in different ways. Regardless of how a person may react to it, they all build their lives based on what they think Jesus is saying. These people all build their houses in the same location. That is, they weather the same storms, they have the same jobs, they do the same things, they go to the same Churches, they hear the same preaching, and they live very similar lives. From the outside, you really can’t tell much difference between them.
The two people in this parable are what we would describe as “religious people,” serving in and supporting their local Church. They are responsible citizens. Both seem to believe the same things and live the same kind of lives. They have a lot in common, at least on the outside.
But of course, there are some fundamental differences, which is the whole point of this parable.
One man built his house on the sand. You don’t need an engineering degree to know that building a house on sand is not a good idea. Sand is unstable, ever-changing and moving. It offers no stability, and can never provide a firm foundation. The Leaning Tower of Pisa may well be a famous tourist attraction today, but if time travel were possible and you could show its designers and builders what it looks like today, they’d be highly embarrassed. Just what were they thinking - building massive a tower on marshland with a foundation only 3 metres deep?
In the parable, building on the sand speaks of people who hear the Gospel, but instead of believing the Gospel and coming to faith in Jesus, they believe they can build their lives on the shifting sands of human philosophy, wisdom, opinion, and religious achievement. They are driven by outward, religious appearances and faith in themselves, rather than faith in Jesus Christ.
People who build on the sand hear the Gospel, but they decide which bits they like and which bits they don’t like, and re-fashion Scripture to suit their own purposes and their own lifestyles. They hear the Gospel, and believe its general message, but they choose to follow God on their own terms. To them, His Word is open to interpretation. If He commands them to do something, they will obey if they choose to. If they don’t like it, they won’t do it.
They build the house of their lives on self-will, self-fulfillment, self-sufficiency, self-satisfaction, and self-righteousness. Theirs is a works based religion that has the appearance of being right, but it actually lacks the truth. Paul describes that kind of person like this in 2 Timothy 3:5: “Having a form of godliness, but denying its power.” Then he says, “Have nothing to do with them.”
Many people build their lives on the sand because it is easy. It requires little effort. Just a little change here, and a little change there, and they can fool themselves, and everyone around them into thinking they are right with God. A life built on the sand requires no commitment, no sacrifice, and no faith.
People who build on the sand believe they can pray a prayer, join a Church and go through the motions each Sunday, and all will be well. Sand-builders ultimately have their faith in themselves.
When God makes demands on sand-builders, and calls for total surrender to His will, their unstable faith leaves them shipwrecked. Jesus encountered this very thing during His life. “As they were walking along the road, a man said to Him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.’ He said to another man, ‘Follow me.’ But the man replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Still another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-bye to my family.’ Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’” (Luke 9:57-62)
Now please understand that Jesus is not saying that as Christians we are to abandon our families, but we must consider what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called in his book, “the cost of discipleship.”
Sand-builders are people who build their lives on religion, self-righteousness, and false hope. They will not sacrifice. They will only do what suits them.
Rock-builders on the other hand, are very different.
One man built his house on the sand, while the other dug deep. He dug until he reached the bedrock and built his house on the rock. The rock does not move. It is unchanging and stable. Rock offers a good foundation for a house.
Building on the rock speaks of people who hear the Gospel and believe it to the point that they build their lives on it. The “rock” in these verses is “these words of mine” that Jesus speaks about in verse 24. The rock is the Gospel. It is the same rock that Jesus talks about in Matthew 16:13-18. “When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But what about you?’ He asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’
Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.’”
The rock here refers to Peter’s profession of faith in the words of Jesus. In other words, it refers to faith in the Gospel.
Rock-builders understand that Jesus alone has the power to save their souls. Rock builders hear His Word and they conform their lives to it. They hear what the Bible says about Jesus, that He is “the way, the truth, and the life.” They believe His words when He says that “No-one comes to the Father except through me.”
Rock-builders hear that message and they receive it and build their lives of faith on that truth. They hear and they believe the most famous verse in the entire Bible without reinterpreting it to include followers of other man-made philosophies and religions: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
The message of the Gospel comes to them with absolute clarity. They hear the truth about Jesus and they believe it. They embrace it and yield to it, as this message changes their lives.
What God tells them to do in His Word, they do – not because they’re afraid of God, but because they love Him. The best way to show your gratitude to God for saving you is to obey His will for your life and to live it how He intended it to be lived – to His glory. Rock-builders count the cost of discipleship, and are willing to pay that price.
Jesus couldn’t put it any simpler than in John 14:15 – “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”
Rock-builders hear the Word of God, the Gospel, and make it the foundation for their lives.
How do you know that you are saved and that you are a rock-builder, and not a sand-builder? 1 John 2:3-6 has the answer. “We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands. The man who says, ‘I know Him,’ but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys His word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.”
In this parable are two people who build vastly different lives based on how they hear and respond to the Gospel. One house is built on a firm foundation of faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The other is built on the shifting sand of religion, works, and self-righteousness. One of those houses describes the kind of life you are building right now. You are either a believer in the Gospel and in Jesus, or you have a false religion, and a false hope of salvation. Remember, salvation comes only from knowing Jesus Christ as your Saviour.
Who, or what, is the foundation for your life? Who, or what, are you building on? Are you building your life on the solid rock of the Gospel? Or are you building your life on shifting sand?
These are crucial questions, because they have eternal consequences.
The parable tells us that the rains came, the floods followed, and the winds of destruction blew. This image is not just about the storms in life, but rather it speaks of judgment. In the end, both houses were subjected to a terrible storm of judgment. One house stood, while the other was totally destroyed.
The house that was built on the sand could not face the judgment of God, and it collapsed. It was completely destroyed. There was nothing left to show for the life lived in it. There was nothing left of hopes, dreams, plans, efforts, works, or anything. Everything was destroyed and swept away as if it had never existed.
This is a picture of what will happen to every person who builds their life on anything but Jesus Christ. We might not like it, but there is coming a day of judgment. There is coming a day when every person will face God. People who are trusting religion, good works, some prayer they prayed, some emotional experience they had, some profession they made, or anything else, will see the house they have built crumble and fall before the judgment of God.
This parable gives us a serious warning, and we need to listen to it. In the verses preceding it Jesus says, “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. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23)
This is the tragic story of some very religious people who built their lives on the sand. These people faced God with all their works and their self-righteous deeds, and they were cast out of His presence. God does not accept sinners into Heaven based on our good works, or our religious efforts. God accepts sinners into Heaven only when that sinner is in a faith relationship with Jesus. 1 John 5:12 says, “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
The house that was built on the rock experienced the same storm, but it stood because it was built on the Word of God and the Gospel of grace. It stood because the builder dug deep and built it on something greater than himself. This builder built his house on the finished work of Jesus Christ. This builder believed the Gospel. He understood that Jesus died for his sin, rose from the dead, and had the power to save anyone who would believe in Him. This person built his life on Jesus, and he was accepted by God.
That is the absolute clarity and simplicity of the Gospel. There is no other means of salvation. It is in Christ alone.
If you build your life on faith in Jesus Christ, and on His death and resurrection, your house will stand and you will be saved.
The person who built his house on the sand did not intend for his house to fall. He thought he was doing the right thing. He thought he was building a house that would stand. He had confidence that his house would stand, but he was wrong. There’s a popular phrase we hear in the world today. “It doesn’t matter what you believe, just as long as you’re sincere.” Well, the Bible teaches that it does matter what you believe. You can be sincere, but you can also be sincerely wrong.
The problem that the sand-builder had in the parable was that his confidence and trust was not in God but in himself. There was nothing wrong with his house. There was nothing wrong with the materials. The problem with his house was the foundation.
If you are building your house on anything but Jesus Christ and the Gospel, it will fall. It might look sturdy. The materials might be all right. It might be pleasing to the eye. Everyone else might think the house is fine. But, if it is built on the wrong foundation, it will fall. And when it falls, you will be lost forever.
Beware of anyone who preaches any Gospel other than the Gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ alone. Beware of anyone who says salvation is anything but by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
Everybody here today is building a spiritual house, but the most important part of your house is its foundation.
“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus, blood and righteousness. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.”
We close with the words of Peter in our first reading this morning: “Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever!
Homegroup Study Notes
(In preparation for your time together, read chapters 5 to 7 of Matthew’s gospel).
How do you think we should “hear these words of mine and put them into practice?” (Matthew 7:24)
Which passages in these 3 chapters has challenged you the most?
What is your understanding of the term “exclusivity of the Gospel?”
Discuss this statement: “It doesn’t matter what you believe, just so long as you’re sincere.”
How does this saying contradict the Bible?
How would you respond to a person who challenges the Bible in this way?
Read Matthew 7:24-27
What are some of the fundamental differences between sand-builders and rock-builders?
In which ways have you been building your life of faith on the sand, rather than the rock of Jesus Christ?
What lessons have you learned, and how has your faith grown?
Close by praying that God would reveal to you the areas of your faith that have been built on the sand rather than the rock, and ask that He would help you to build your life on Christ, the Solid Rock.