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Preached at / Published Life BPC 8am & 1045am Svc, 2012-03-04

Text: Matthew 7:24-27

If we have been attending church for many years we would have heard hundreds if not thousands of sermons by now. Most of them would probably have been of some spiritual benefit to us. But how many of these sermons have benefited us as much as they should have? 

Please think about this carefully: Isn't it true that we can usually practice whatever we learn when we attend a training course on something we are interested in, like cooking, swimming, driving, or playing a new musical instrument? And isn't it true that when we acquire a new PC, handphone, iPad or some new electronic gadget, it does not take very long for us to put the instructions for using it into practise? Why is it then that our daily lives do not change much when we receive instructions from God's Word Sunday after Sunday? Something is obviously missing from the way that we listen to God's Word. Perhaps what we lack is a sense of personal responsibility to do what God's Word instructs us to do.

Here is an illustration from a book by Charles Swindoll: Imagine, if you will, that you work for a company whose president found it necessary to travel out of the country and spend an extended period of time abroad. So he says to you and the other trusted employees, 'Look, I'm going to leave. And while I'm gone, I want you to pay close attention to the business. You manage things while I'm away. I will write you regularly. When I do, I will instruct you in what you should do from now until I return from this trip.' 

Everyone agrees. He leaves and stays gone for a couple of years. During that time he writes often, communicating his desires and concerns. Finally he returns. He walks up to the front door of the company and immediately discovers everything is in a mess-weeds flourishing in the flower beds, windows broken across the front of the building, the gal at the front desk dozing, loud music roaring from several offices, two or three people engaged in horseplay in the back room. Instead of making a profit, the business has suffered a great loss. Without hesitation he calls everyone together and with a frown asks, 'What happened? Didn't you get my letters?' 

You say, 'Oh, yeah, sure. We got all your letters. We've even bound them in a book. And some of us have memorized them. In fact, we have 'letter study' every Sunday. You know, those were really great letters.' The president then asks, 'But what did you do about my instructions?' And, the employees respond, 'Do? Well, nothing. But we read every one!'

I think we all can figure out what would happen after this: The employees will be fired for insubordination - not doing what they were responsible for. But I hope that we will also realize from this and from what we will learn in today's sermon that each of us has an important personal responsibility: The responsibility to apply every sermon, every Bible lesson and every message that we hear from God's Word. All that we hear from God's Word is meant not just to inform our minds, but to transform our lives. 

You will notice that the passage in Matthew 7:24-27 starts with Jesus saying, 'Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine.' The sayings here refer specifically to the Sermon on the Mount which Jesus preached to His disciples. It begins with the Beatitudes at Matthew chapter 5 and it ends here with our passage in chapter 7. In this sermon Jesus dealt with many practical issues that are of fundamental importance to all who would lead godly lives. Now the Lord wraps up all that He has taught by instructing us to act upon it.

He wants us to commit ourselves to a full application of those truths in our own lives. How does He do this? He lays out the stark contrast between merely hearing what He has taught and actually doing what He has taught. He challenges us to do all that we have heard from Him. And He cautions us against hearing what He has taught without doing it. All this is achieved by Jesus in a most skilful manner - by a parable which uses the familiar picture of constructing a house. Jesus likens the way that we live our life to the way that a builder builds a house. Depending on how the house is built, it will remain standing or it will collapse. If it is built wisely it will remain, but if it is built foolishly it will collapse. Therefore our life must be built wisely, and according to Jesus a life that is built wisely is characterised by three things: 

I. It Is Based on the Bedrock of Obedience (v. 24) 

v.24 'Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock' Take note of what the house is built on: a firm, solid rock. As a skilled carpenter our Lord would have known the importance of building on a strong solid foundation. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus says that He would build His church on a rock and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. This is the most basic principle in building: A building is only as strong as its foundation. This same principle is applied today by all civil engineers. That is why before any building is done, a soil test is done, and piles made of concrete and steel are sunk deeply into the ground until they rest on firm unmoveable bedrock. This bedrock may be up to 200 metres in the ground, depending on the terrain. In Palestine the bedrock is only several metres below the surface, and so to build a house upon a rock would still require some digging into the ground. 

This detail is actually mentioned in Luke'�s account of the same parable that Jesus told 'Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock' (Luke 6:47-48) 

Just as it takes much effort to dig deep into the ground to reach the bedrock, so it does take much effort to apply the Word of God and put it into practice. But it is well worth the effort because it ensures that our life is securely founded. The point is this: Obedience to Christ is the only sure bedrock foundation for building your life. Dearly beloved, is your life securely founded upon the principle of obeying Christ? If it is, then you are a wise builder. You do not merely listen to the words of Jesus, but you also put them into practice. And you will reap all the blessings that will come from practising those words. 

James tells us in 1:22-25 'But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the word, this man shall be blessed in his deed.' The blessings that come from doing the Word makes the effort so worthwhile.

One of the blessings you can look forward to if you have built your life wisely is durability. What you have built will be able to weather all the storms of life. This brings us to the second characteristic of a life that is built wisely:

II. It Is Tested by the Tempests of Tragedy (v. 25)

v.25 'And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.' Here we see an important truth. Being an obedient Christian does not mean that our life will be free of trial and testing. Building wisely does not prevent the hurricanes of adversity from striking. Whether we like it or not, we will face trials. In fact I have known some who testified that after they became Christians they experienced even more trials than before. (As 2 Timothy 3:12 tells us 'Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.'). 

Why is this so? It may be designed by God to strengthen us and purify our faith. It may also be designed by God to reveal to us and to others the true quality of our life. One striking example of this in the Bible is Job. When Satan questioned the quality of Job's loyalty to God, God gave him permission to afflict Job with the most severe trials of life. Within a short time he lost all his wealth and also his health. But Job withstood the test well - He remained as loyal to God as ever. Through this, Satan was silenced and there was no more doubt about the quality of Job's loyalty to God.

In our passage the trials of life are represented by a storm with rains, winds and floods. Storms have the ability to reveal the real quality of the work of the builders. Under good weather conditions no one can tell how well a building has been constructed, because we cannot see its foundations nor the strength of its beams and columns to withstand stress. We are not able to see any real difference between a weak building and a strong building until they are both subjected to extreme weather conditions. Only then will their real quality be known. 

The same thing is true of your life. The true test of its quality is not the times when everything is going well for you, but it is the times when you face the most difficult trials and temptations. When I was a young Christian I learned how to thank God for all His blessings. But I did not know what it means to be thankful for painful trials until I met with a road accident in 1981. I still cannot recall the point of impact when I was knocked down because my head hit the road and I became unconscious. But I distinctly remember that when I regained consciousness and realized what had happened, I was able to thank God sincerely for what happened to me. And that was something that I had really longed to know - whether I could thank God and trust God in times of trial as much as in other times. 

Now that we know the purpose of trials, let us not be afraid to face times of severe testing. God allows them for a good purpose. And the greatest testing your life will ever go through as a Christian will be at the judgment seat of Christ for that is when all that you have built will be thoroughly tested by fire. If you have built your life wisely upon the principle of obedience to Christ, you will not only emerge intact from this test but you will be rewarded. (l Corinthians 3:12-15 'Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.')

So what will it be for you? It depends on how you respond to God's Word. if you respond to the Word that you hear with obedience, then you are building wisely, to withstand anything, even the fire of testing at the judgment seat of Christ. But if your response to hearing the Word is merely a pretense of faith, or having a merely intellectual commitment, or just enjoying Jesus in small doses, then by the definition given right here by Jesus you are a foolish builder. Your life will not be delivered from the disaster of desctruction. 

III. It Is Delivered from the Disaster of Destruction (vv. 26, 27)

This brings us now to the third and final characteristic of a life that is built wisely. Let us look now at verses 26 and 27: 'And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.' 

This is now happening in Australia. Days of torrential rain have brought flash floods to - of New South Wales and thousands of people are being evacuated from Sydney even as we speak. People who live in coastal areas are usually hit the hardest. They sometimes witness the unimaginable destruction that torrential rains, strong winds and floods can cause. Do you remember the videos you watched on TV of the huge tsunami which hit East Japan in March last year? It was frightening to see this monstrous wave 40 metres high travelling 10 km inland, mowing down every building in its path. In December last year, when floods from a strong typhoon ravaged the southern Philippines in one night, the torrents of water were so strong that they swept away entire villages of houses with families inside out to sea. When I was staying in the Philippines years ago, I witnessed firsthand the awful devastation caused by two typhoons that passed directly over Manila - uprooted trees, fallen electric poles and houses that were destroyed by the very strong winds and floods. It was not a pleasant sight.

Such severe storms may also have happened in Israel in the time of Jesus. The land of Palestine is known for torrential rains that can quickly turn dry river beds into raging torrents. The fourth chapter of Judges records how this phenomenon gave the Israelites a great victory over the armies of Sisera. General Sisera's formidable force of 900 iron chariots could not move when a sudden well-timed downpour turned the River Kishon into a raging flood which imobilised all his chariots and horses. 

If the rains and floods can destroy a whole army, just think of what it can do to a house that is built upon sand. As we read the words in v.27, 'great was the fall of it' we can just imagine the loud crashing noise of the walls and roof collapsing, and the horrifying screams of all who are trapped inside it. It certainly sends shudders down my spine just to think of it. I am sure none of us would ever like to witness this happening to anyone or to ouselves. And this dearly beloved, is the intended impact of this passage - to serve as a very stern warning to all of us: A warning not to build your house upon the sand; A warning not to be merely a hearer of God's Word. 

It is a sad observation that many in the church today are content to be hearers of the Word. They will attend worship services very faithfully. They will come for church camp every year. They may even attend some Bible classes regularly and memorise verses of Scripture. All of that is well and good. The big problem is that they are not doers of the Word. They do not apply the messages that they hear from God's Word. Why are they like this? If you were to make diligent enquiry to find out why they are like this, you will get a variety of reasons: Some of them may have the habit of saying, 'God is using this message to speak to the ones sitting next to me. They are the ones who need to apply it.' Others will say, 'I will apply the message I have just heard, but not right now - there are many other things I need to do first.' Some others would say, 'I will apply what I have heard, but only if everyone else here does it as well. I don't like to be the first to do something.' All these are attempts either to evade responsibility, postpone responsibility or transfer responsibility.

There are also those who attempt excuse themselves of the responsibility to be doers of the Word by saying, 'My circumstances do not allow me to do what He says - I am sure that God will be understanding and very gracious to make an exception for me.' But the worst of all are those who hold God responsible to make them doers of the Word when they hear it. They say to themselves, 'If God really wants me to do this, then He must give me the will and the power to do it first. But I don't have either of these yet. So I must wait until God gives them to me.' It is true that we all need God's help to do what is good and right. Jesus said in John 15:5 that without Him we can do nothing. So we need to pray for strength and ability to do His will. But this does not remove our personal responsibility to act upon God�s Word. We still need to do our part. We cannot hold God responsible for what we are responsible to do (e.g. getting up early on Sunday morning to come to church on time).

So let us be warned that all the excuses we can ever give for being hearers and not doers are as flimsy as sand. It is utterly foolish of us to find reasons not to do what God holds us responsible to do. It will only bring about our own downfall! Please take this warning seriously, and ask yourself the question: Are you building wisely? Is your life based on the bedrock of obedience? Will it be able to stand when it is tested by the tempests of tragedy? Or will it collapse? Will it be delivered from the disaster of destruction?

Let us commit ourselves to build wisely from now onward by obeying all that the Lord has taught us in His Word. 

If you are still outside Christ, doing this means that you must obey the Gospel of Christ and get saved from eternal death without any more delay. Why do you continue to build your house on sand? Turn away from your sins at once and turn to Jesus Christ alone for salvation. He is the solid Rock on whom you can put your full confidence against the Day of God's awful Judgment. And who knows when that day will come to you?

If you are already saved, then being a doer of the Word means that you must grow up into spiritual maturity. Stop pursuing the world and all its attractive pleasures of wealth, popularity and power - all that is sinking sand. Set your affections on things that are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Build up a close, intimate relationship with Him and cultivate those virtues and characteristics which will make you conformed to the image of Christ. Then your life will be built firmly upon the Rock of Ages, and no stormy trial will be able to shake you.

If you have already grown and matured as a Christian, being a doer of the Word means that you must serve the Lord diligently. You must discover your spiritual gifts and use them well for His glory. Get involved in reaching out to the lost, in making disciples of others and help them to grow. Exercise good stewardship of all the talents and abilities that God has bestowed upon you. Bear a good testimony as a Christian worker, as a Christian student or as a Christian homemaker. Then your hope of receiving good rewards when you stand at the Judgment seat of Christ will be as strong as a rock.

Let us all commit ourselves this morning to build wisely, and may the Lord help us to be doers of His Word and not hearers only.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25