The Second Sunday After Pentecost June 10, 2007
231, 377, 370, 465
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
[Jesus said], “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. 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. But 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 rain 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 the name of Jesus, who speaks with all the authority of God Himself, dear fellow Christians:
What is the biggest investment you will ever make here on earth? Money-wise it would probably be your home. So naturally you put a great deal of time and care into the process of choosing a house for you and your family. You may remember scouring the ads in the paper for months and walking through countless houses before finding the one you wanted to buy. Even then, did you lie awake at night hoping and praying that you had made the right choice? It is something to take seriously, because you count on your home for shelter and security for years to come.
What do you look for in a house? Is it a matter of square footage, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, or the architectural style and age of the building? Those are the things we see and the things which many home buyers concentrate on. But a family in California learned that a good home is more than what is seen. They bought a home which looked wonderful and was just what they wanted. But then with torrential rains one spring, the ground under their home became saturated with water. The footings and foundation became unstable, and the building inspector condemned the home as unsafe. The family was forced to move out. The house still looked fine on the outside, but in reality, it was worthless and was scheduled for demolition. A good home starts with a good, solid foundation.
The same holds true for an even bigger investment we make and that is the building of our lives. It is a long term construction project. Day by day, year by year, we work on it. We gather all kinds of building materials and put them together, things like an education, a career, friendships, and recreation. But more than that, we want our lives to reflect that we are believers in Christ as our Savior and to stand the test of time. Are we building well right now? That depends, Jesus says, on where we build.
In His parable Jesus called the man who built his house on sand “foolish.” Yet it doesn’t always appear that way. Spend less time and money on the foundation and you can spend more on the visible parts of the house. Don’t be picky about the foundation and you can build faster and cheaper. That happens in spiritual building projects too. Jesus warns of false prophets who come in sheep’s clothing. They look good and promise to build a fine house. They quote God’s Word and use biblical terminology. The Pharisees were like that. They were models of outward piety. They polished their image until it was shiny and bright. Today there are religious teachers who are sincere, charismatic, and wonderful communicators. After listening to them, you might be ready to do whatever they suggest. However, many of them are dangerous wolves.
You can spot them by their fruits. A good tree will naturally produce good fruit. A true prophet of God will preach God’s truth. John writes: “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1 NIV). Don’t just look at appearances, but test the foundation to see if it agrees with God’s Word. Many religious teachers are building on man’s word and not God’s. True teaching is downplayed or neglected altogether. Beautiful churches are constructed and impressive numbers are brought in. But if there is no foundation they can’t stand for long.
Such “buildings” look great until the storm comes. The temple in Jerusalem was Israel’s pride and joy, but because the worship there was not built on the truth of God’s Word, it was completely destroyed by the Roman army in AD 70. When Jesus returns on the Last Day, anything not anchored to His truth will likewise be swept away.
On what are we building? The Lord warns: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven.” [v.21] In other words, outward appearances are not a guarantee of salvation. Yet it’s easy to slip into that way of thinking without even realizing it—to equate being good before God with the good we do: “I’m a good Christian because I go to church, am active in the congregation, support the Lord’s work financially, and am a decent person.” To be extra sure of their standing, some add other rules, such as not playing cards or avoiding alcohol. Go into almost any Christian bookstore and you will see shelf after shelf of “how to” books: How to manage money as a Christian, how to be a Christian spouse, how to renew yourself in 40 days.
None of these is necessarily wrong, but if we try to build our lives with them, without a solid foundation underneath, we are in real trouble when the storms come. If we depend on our own abilities and works, what happens when we are faced with a storm of problems we can’t overcome? If we build on our own goodness, what happens when the guilt of our failures pours down on us like a monsoon? If we build more and more on the basis of how well we have served the Lord, what happens when it is all swept away and condemned as falling short of God’s standards? A house or a life, no matter how impressive, is going to come crashing down if it’s built on nothing but sand.
The first priority for any house that is going to last is to build it on the rock. Are we doing that? We are if we hear and do Jesus’ words. But how can we? In the Sermon on the Mount, of which our text is a portion, the Lord speaks of purity of heart, turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, trusting God completely for all of our needs and doing it all in perfect love, not because we feel guilty if we don’t do it. God’s standard is perfection, nothing less will do. “Be holy because I the Lord your God am holy!” (Leviticus 19:2).
If that were all Jesus said, we would be doomed before we start, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But God’s Word and His will include much more than His Law. The Law can’t be the foundation of the Christian life, because by the deeds of the Law no flesh shall be justified in His sight. Jesus does not say that we are to make ourselves acceptable by our works. Rather, what the Law demands He offers us as a free gift of His grace. When the Jews asked Jesus, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” He didn’t say, “Keep the commandments.” He replied, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29).
Build your life on the massive, solid Rock which will never shift or wash away. Put your faith in what Jesus has done. That is “hearing and doing” His words. Jesus showed perfect love toward God and neighbor by fulfilling all the commandments for sinners who could never do it themselves. He loved the world to the extreme of sacrificing His own holy life as payment for the sins of all. There is no question about our status with God, because by faith we receive everything Jesus earned by His perfect life and suffering and death. As we heard in the reading from Romans: “Now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed….even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.” (Romans 3:21f).
A house built on sand is worthless, no matter how much time and money are poured into it. A life built on something other than Christ will not last, no matter how hard and diligently a person works at it. He may be sincere and kind and a wonderful person in general, but a life apart from Christ will collapse in ruins.
If you pay attention to where you build and make sure the foundation of Rock is in place, you can build the rest of the house with confidence. A living faith in Jesus produces outward works pleasing to God as fruits of faith. The Holy Spirit works in us kindness even toward enemies. We build our lives honoring the bond of marriage, even though the world despises it. We take our worries and cares to the Lord in prayer. We strive to serve Him and our neighbor, rather than put ourselves first.
Building on Christ’s love, we want to be rich in good works. The type of foundation makes all the difference. A person building on the sand of what he can see, does works to gain salvation, and so the house will fall. The one who builds by faith on Christ does works not to be saved, but because he already is saved by grace.
Such a house will stand no matter how severe the storms. When there are trials in life, and the wind is uprooting things you thought were solid, your house will stand, for it is built on the promises of the almighty Savior who rules over heaven and earth. When the black clouds of guilt begin building, and Satan won’t let your conscience rest, you can find shelter in your house built on Christ. He has taken away your guilt once and for all. Nothing can ever change that.
But all other storms are a gentle, spring shower compared to the hurricane force winds of death. If not before, it is at that point when the sand crumbles, erodes away, and the house collapses into splinters. But even then, your house built on Christ will stay standing. It has to stay standing because it is anchored to Jesus who weathered death Himself and rose in victory.
Storms may be battering you now. It might be sickness or fears about the future or concerns over your spiritual wellbeing. But no matter what the weather, the house on the Rock will endure: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38ff.).
Jesus says, “Don’t worry, I have authority to forgive your sins, and I have done it! I have the authority to pronounce you righteous before God, and I have done it! I have power to richly bless you here and now and in eternity, and I will certainly do it! Remember, if Jesus says so, it’s settled! Invest wisely and build your life on Him! Amen.
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.