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The Parable of the Two Builders - Part 1

Tom Pennington • Matthew 7:24-27

  • 2014-03-02 AM
  • The Sermon on the Mount
  • Sermons

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In 2005 (you may have read about the story), Warren and Pam Adams lost their beach home on the Gulf coast in Gilchrist, TX. They lost it to a hurricane. But they loved the beach, and so they decided they would rebuild, but this time they would rebuild using the lessons that had been learned from a series of storms that had swept across the Gulf coast. Their goal was to build a house that could withstand a category 5 hurricane. The columns that supported the home were stronger and larger than ever, and higher than ever before. In fact, the bottom floor of the house rose 22 feet above sea level, enough to rise above all but the worst of storm surges. But the most important part of their new home (and where much of the engineering was concentrated) was on a carefully engineered, storm-resistant foundation, those piers that went into the ground to secure their home.

Three years after the home was completed, three years after they enjoyed it, along came Hurricane Ike and completely devastated that entire community again. The fire station was gone, the post office was gone, more than 200 homes completely gone. In fact, it looked like God had simply taken and swept away the ground; it was perfectly clean. Amazingly, the Adams' new home was still there. The photo of their home standing alone among the devastation went viral. In fact, there were a lot of sceptics who suspected that the photo must have been doctored in some way. Surely, this couldn't be true. How could one house survive when everything else around it was completely destroyed? Ultimately, the answer could be traced back to the key decision, and that was how the house would be anchored to the ground – its foundation.

As we will learn today from the last lines of the Sermon on the Mount, the same thing is exactly true of every professing Christian's life. Every day, each of us, you, continue to build the life, board by board and brick by brick. William Hendrickson speaking of the parable that we will study together today said that in this parable, "... both men are builders, for to live means to build. Every ambition a man cherishes, every thought he conceives, every word he speaks, every deed he performs, is as it were, a building block. Gradually, the structure of every life rises." But our Lord reminds us in this parable that eventually the storm or the hurricane of God's judgment will come, and it will test every structure of every professing Christian life to see if it's genuine or not, to see if it's built on a foundation or not.

As we've noted, as Jesus concludes this magnificent sermon, He gives His disciples three great warnings. First of all, there is the warning in verses 13 and 14 of the wrong entrance. There's a very real danger of being directed to the wrong entrance. Of thinking that this is the way that leads to life, here is the path that leads to God's presence, here is the path that is salvation, here is the gate that ushers you into God's ways and into His kingdom, and ultimately into His presence. But there are wrong entrances, in fact, there's one massive wrong entrance, and it is everything except the biblical Jesus and the biblical gospel. That wrong entrance is the false philosophies of our world. It is the apathy and indifference of many. It is the false religions of our world. It is the perversions of Christianity. It is everything, that wide gate is, except the biblical Jesus and the biblical gospel. Jesus said, "Beware."

He also said there's the danger of false prophets in verses 15 - 20. You see, the reason so many people go into the wide gate, they enter into the wrong gate headed supposedly to heaven, but it's headed to destruction, is because there are lot of false teachers pointing to that gate saying that's the way, that's how you can know God, that's how you can have a relationship with Him. Beware of false prophets pointing to the wrong gate.

The third warning in the end of the sermon here is the danger of false profession in verses 21 - 27. In other words, Jesus says you can find the right gate, you can understand the biblical Jesus and the biblical gospel, and yet falsely think you have walked through that gate when in fact, at the last moment, Satan has pulled a quick one on you and you have walked through the wide gate, because your profession isn't genuine. You understand the biblical Jesus. You understand the biblical gospel, but you haven't really come to saving faith. That's the final warning we're studying together. It's, the warning against self-deception, really.

Let's read the paragraph again, it begins in verse 21 of Matthew 7 and runs down through verse 27. This is what our Lord says to us. Matthew 7:21,

"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'

Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell - and great was its fall."

Now, the paragraph that I have just read for you is really one unit of thought, but with two distinct parts. There is, in verses 21 - 23, which we've already studied together, the warning itself, the warning against self-deception, the warning of a false profession. And then in verses 24 - 27, there is an illustration of that danger, an illustration of the danger of self-deception. And the illustration is really a parable. It's a parable of two builders. Notice that verse 24 begins with the word "therefore." This makes it clear to us that Jesus is not introducing a new subject here, but He's continuing with the same theme that He's already introduced. He explained it to us in verses 21 - 23, and now in verse 24 and following He illustrates that same issue and applies it.

He illustrates the danger of false profession, the danger of self-deception in a story about two men: two men who decided to build their family homes there near the Sea of Galilee where He was teaching that morning. The point of the parable is straightforward. The professing follower of Christ, and the key word is "professing", the professing follower of Christ who builds his life on a faulty foundation will be discovered not to be genuine and will not survive the judgment. But the professing follower of Christ who does build on a solid foundation will be found genuine and will survive the judgment.

Now don't miss the big point here. Both men in this parable claimed to be believers. Both of them claimed Jesus as Lord as He's just illustrated in the previous passage. But the man who builds on the foundation is truly a Christian, he is truly a follower of Christ, and the man who does not build on the foundation has made a profession of faith in Christ, he calls Jesus "Lord," he says "Lord," but he's never truly known the Lord, or belonged to Him. So, understand then that in this parable, you have juxtaposed a genuine Christian versus the one who appears to be. You have a man who is truly born again compared to a man who only imagines that he is.

So, verses 21 - 27 then, are describing two groups of people, but in two different ways. In verses 21 - 23, the false disciple is described, notice verse 21, as one who "says", but does not obey, and in verse 26, the same false disciple is described as one who "hears" but doesn't obey. So, one who says "Lord, Lord" but doesn't obey, and one who hears Jesus' words but doesn't obey them.

Now, as we examine this parable, we need first to understand it at the most basic level of the story. And once we understand the story, then we'll go back and look at the spiritual realities that it illustrates. Lord willing, today we're just going to look at the story itself. We'll do a little bit of interpretation, but we are going to do the bulk of our interpreting (the bulk of applying), Lord willing, next Sunday. You need to get the story, so let's begin today with understanding the simple story of two builders.

You know, in this story we are faced again with the profound wisdom and the creative brilliance of our Lord when it comes to Him as a Teacher. Once you have heard this story you never forget it. And it's simple enough that even a child can understand it. But at the same time, it is so rich and profound in its theology that it's a challenge for the most intelligent minds. The elements in this story are universal, so they can be understood. The basic story can be understood in any time in history, in every place and in every culture. At the same time, as it is with the rest of the Scripture, Jesus told the story in a specific time and in a specific place, in a place with a unique topography and unique weather patterns, and in a time with its own unique building methods.

Although you don't have to understand those things to get the basic spiritual lesson of the story, those who heard Jesus share the story that day on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, they understood these things because they were part of their experience. And when you and I come to understand these nuances, it enriches the story for us and provides us with even greater insight in order to understand Jesus' spiritual point.

Let me illustrate it for you this way, I often use this as a point of comparison. You all heard and are familiar with the speech that then President George Bush made after the terrible events of 9/11. You remember he ended his speech with those two words: "Let's roll." Now if you were to read the President's speech several hundred years from now and you understood the English language, you would get the basic idea of what he meant. You would understand that he meant let's get moving, let's act, in response to what has occurred.

But if you knew the historical context, you understood the cultural context, then you would know that he was reusing words that Todd Beamer's wife overheard him say on his cellphone, words he spoke just before he and others stormed the cockpit of United Flight 93, not only trying to save their own lives, but hopefully to save the lives of those of whom the plane would soon be targeted. And that would give those words "Let's roll" even greater meaning, richer meaning.

So, understand this, knowing the background doesn't change the meaning, but it does enrich it. And the same thing is true whenever it's possible to take ourselves out of our own time, out of our own timeframe, our own context, and take ourselves back and insert ourselves into the context in which the portion of Scripture was written. That's (by the way), why it's so bad when you hear people say (they approach the Scripture, and the first thing they say is), let me tell you what this means to me. Well, who cares what it means to you? The question is what did it mean when it was spoken? What was the context? Let's do everything we can to go back and understand the context, and then (understanding that context), we can apply it to our own. That's what I want us to do this morning.

As we seek to understand the simple story, and again we're looking at it at the basic level of the story Jesus uses. Let's look first at the wise builder, the wise builder, verse 24. "'Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them may be compared to a wise man.'" Now, Jesus refers to this first builder as a wise man. The word "wise" simply refers to someone who has understanding. And he has understanding because of insight into the way things really are, a very practical wisdom about how life functions. This man is thoughtful. He's prudent. He knows how to look ahead. He knows how to see what's coming and make decisions now that will protect him as he looks to the future. Now why does Jesus say that he's wise? Well in the story, this man is wise because of the method he uses to build his house. Notice verse 24, "... a wise man who built his house on the rock."

Now in most of Palestine in the first century, the most frequently used material for home building was stone. There were poor people who did what had been done for centuries, probably millennia, in fact certainly millennia. They made their homes out of mud bricks. They would gather mud; they would add in straw; they would then form those into form molds and leave them in the sun to bake; and they would be mud bricks; and they would build their homes from those mud bricks. That was true for the poorest.

But by the first century, most people used stone to build their homes. The poor people used loose stones that were scattered in the fields. If you visit Israel (some of you have, some others of you are going this fall), everywhere you go you will see stones, little rocks, all over the countryside that are large enough to use to build a structure, whether it's walls, or whether it's a home. The rich of course, took a different approach. There were quarries in the soft limestone hills all around Israel. There were and are quarries, and they would pay to have stones quarried from that limestone, and those stones would then form the basis for their homes.

Regardless of whether you used fieldstones, or whether you used quarried stone, once you had erected the stone walls of your home, obviously you were still exposed through the cracks to the weather. And so, what they would do is, for protection, the stone walls were covered with a clay plaster. By the time they were done, you had a weather-tight home. Now, there were other features to their homes. They had doors, often they were made (for the poor people they were simply curtains, or they would be animal skins hanging in the doorway). For those who were of more of means (middle class or above), they would have wood doors, wood imported from elsewhere because wood was not that plentiful in Israel, and they would make their doors from wood. In some cases, we've even found where there were swinging doors with a rod that extended into the floor and into the beam above the door, and the door would literally swing, could be latched as well.

The windows were small and often had what's described in the Old Testament as a latticework over them. They could be sealed, if they needed to, from the weather, but ordinarily just a latticework over the windows. Now, the floors in the typical first century home were made of beaten clay, layer upon layer, and eventually burnished plaster was used to finish both the floor and the walls. And then we've seen from our archeology that they would often paint murals. They would paint some design on those plastered walls in the interior of their homes. The roofs were usually flat and in a poor home not much over six feet. Some of you guys would have a serious challenge in a typical poor, first century home. But of course, the wealthier; their homes were airier and larger, roomier, even as would be true today.

To support the roof, there was usually the trunk of a tree that was suspended from one stone wall on one side of the house, across the structure to the other stone wall, and then across that tree, and across the other parts of the stone wall, there would be rafters and joists added to support the roof structure. The rafters were then covered with brush wood. The brush wood was crushed down to form a kind of mesh surface onto which mud would be put. Mud mixed with chopped straw was the final covering on top of the roof. That mixture was beaten flat, and then, with a roller, it was rolled into a water-tight surface. In fact, it's interesting, archeologists and historians tell us that when the first rains came in the fall, typically, if you were a homeowner, you would go up the outside stairs up to your roof, as the rain had begun to fall, and that mud had begun to soften from the long hot summer, and you would take a roller and roll out your roof, again pushing down the surface of that mud, rolling the mud on top of your home into a solid surface again, with the first rains.

As you can imagine, as you think about this home (the typical home in the first century), you combine those stones that were used for the walls with the tree beam and the wood beam that was used for the support for the roof, and then mud on top of that. And as you might imagine there was a whole lot of weight involved in the first century home. And so, a solid foundation was absolutely crucial. This man, Jesus says, was wise. He understood that. He understood how important a good foundation for his home was. And so, notice Jesus says in verse 24, that he built his house "on the rock."

Now, the word that Jesus uses here, the word that Matthew translates out of Aramaic into Greek, is an interesting word. The Greek word for "rock" here is not the word for stones, fieldstones, the kind that would have been used in the walls of the house or even boulders of a larger size. Instead, the Greek word that's used here for "rock" is the word for bedrock, a massive, limestone rock formation under the surface of the ground. Homes have always needed a foundation in order to withstand the elements. But before the modern era and before concrete, you didn't just decide where you wanted your house to be, sort of level the ground a little bit, and then pour a foundation. Instead, if you wanted your house to endure, you had to dig deep down until you hit bedrock. And then on that bedrock you laid the foundation.

According to Luke, that's exactly what this man did. Keep your finger here in Matthew and turn over to Luke 6. Notice how Luke presents this part of Jesus' sermon. Verse 46,

"Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, [Here it is] who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock...."

Now you can keep your finger in Luke and turn back to Matthew. We'll come back there in a moment. Here's a man who understood how important a foundation was, and he took the time to dig down until he hit bedrock. It took a lot of extra time; it took a lot of extra work; it took him much longer to complete his building project than others, but eventually he had a solid home. He completed his work. At some point he moved into his home, and he and his family enjoyed it, perhaps for several years.

But at some point, and we're not told how many years went by, or how long went by, at some point after that, his building skills were seriously tested. A particular rainy season came, and with that rainy season came a massive, powerful storm, and it tested the building that he had built. Notice verse 25, "And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house...."

You have to understand a little bit about the weather in Israel to really appreciate this. Those of you who are transplants from southern California, you have an immediate illustration of it because the climate in Israel is very similar to that of southern California. Most of the year is hot and dry. Typically, from late spring until fall, not a drop of rain falls. On average, the area around Galilee gets about 20 inches of rain a year, but it all comes in just a few months during the rainy season. The rainy season begins slowly sometimes in October or in November, and then most of the rain comes in December, January, and February, and then the rainy season begins to taper off through March and April. During the rainy season, then and now, it is not uncommon for huge storms to blow in off the Mediterranean, accompanied by howling winds.

Clearly that's what Jesus has in mind here. The rain He describes in this parable was not a gentle spring shower. Instead, it was a heavy, torrential downpour. It was just too much rain, falling too fast for the dry, parched ground to absorb. It's like what we have witnessed to some extent in southern California in the news in recent days. The "house races" out in California, as we call them. That'll catch up with you in a moment. As a result of the heavy downpour, the torrential rain, think about what happens in a dry climate like that. Nearby dry creek beds and wadis and ravines begin to fill up and then to flood with raging water. In fact, the Greek word translated "floods" in verse 25, according to the leading Greek lexicon could be described this way, "… it is the winter torrents that arise in the ravines and wadis after a heavy rain and carry away everything before them." That's what we're talking about.

Again, living in southern California for 16 years, I saw this before my eyes. We drove every day over a large, wide riverbed, but it was a riverbed, there was not a drop of water flowing through it. We used to take our, you know, the guests who would come visit us, and we'd say, we want you to see a river. We've got a river here in our community. Then we'd drive there, and it'd be bone-dry. But then the rain would come. And because there was nowhere for the water to go, the ground wouldn't absorb it, it all collected in those paths and pretty soon that dry riverbed that usually was bone-dry would be raging with water, even spilling over its banks and absorbing buildings and other things nearby.

So, this is what's happening here. The streambeds and the wadis crest their banks. This man built his home near at least a streambed, and that streambed floods, crests its banks, and soon the homes built nearby are threatened. We've all seen that haven't we? We've seen, on the news, those images of water rushing through a town and slamming against homes and businesses. That's exactly what Jesus is describing here. And so, He ends, then, by describing what happens to this house, verse 25, "'... the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.'"

Notice how Luke describes this, again back over in Luke 6:48. He says this man "... dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built." Because this man had taken the time to dig down to bedrock and lay his foundation there, the stone walls were then able to withstand the force of the wind, the force of the raging water, because they had a foundation. But this wise man was not the only builder in his community.

There was another builder nearby whose home was caught in the same storm. Perhaps these two homes had been built around the same time. Certainly, the way Jesus intends for us to understand it here is they were built near each other. And to all but the most careful observer, you look at these two homes, and they appeared almost identical, but there was one huge difference.

Let's look secondly at the foolish builder, verse 26. "Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man...." Jesus calls, in contrast to the first builder, the second builder, "a foolish man." The Greek word for foolish is a word you'll recognize, it's been transliterated into English, it's the word "moros" from which we get the word "moron". It describes someone who lacks understanding and insight. This man is the antithesis of everything the wise man is. He is a fool; in the vernacular, he's stupid. Why? Well, in the story, he's foolish because, again, the method of his building.

Look at verse 26. The "... foolish man built his house on the sand." Now the Greek word for "sand" used here can refer to the sand as in that which is on the seashore. And unfortunately, that's the picture that is often drawn in children's literature. It's as if this man completely lacked any sense whatsoever and decided to build his house on the side of the lake. That's not the picture at all.

Keep your finger here and turn to Luke. Luke clarifies this for us. Luke 6:49. The "... one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation...."

As Luke makes it clear here, by "sand", Jesus simply means that this man decided to build his house on the top of the sandy layer of soil in Galilee. In other words, he simply built his house on the surface of the ground. The idea here is not that this man intentionally built his house on bad soil. The point is that he simply didn't see the need or take the time to dig down to a solid foundation. And at the time it didn't seem like such an unreasonable decision.

I mean, think about it, when do you build your house? You build it during the dry season. The ground is hard as a rock. There's not a drop of rain in sight because typically through the summer months not any rain comes whatsoever.

The stream that these houses were built next to had only a slight trickle of water, or it was bone-dry. As he contemplated building his house, it didn't even seem possible to get a shovel into the ground, and it certainly didn't seem necessary to waste his time and effort. The ground was plenty hard enough to support his house in spite of what all the old men in the village said. He was convinced it would be o.k., and it was a whole lot less effort.

And so, he leveled the hard ground where he wanted to build, and in a very short period of time, he began to erect the stone walls. Shortly after that came the substructure of the roof, and the roof materials itself, and then came all the finish work, and in a short period of time this man was able to move in his house. In fact, I'm sure it took him a whole lot less time to build than his neighbor to build. He was probably sitting on his front porch, sipping his iced tea, watching his neighbor labor to dig down to bedrock.

In light of the point of the parable, and the reality that these two houses represent two lives lived out, it's possible that Jesus intended for us to think that these two houses stood side by side in the same town, possibly for many years. They were both comfortable, attractive homes in the first century. They looked the same on the outside. They looked the same on the inside. They functioned the same. They were comfortable places for their owners to live, and perhaps both of these houses had weathered the same rainy seasons, normal rainy seasons, for years. So, over time, everyone in town forgot about the key difference in how these two houses had been built. And then came the storm of the century.

Verse 27, "... the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house...." This man watched as the very same storm that had attacked his neighbor's home begins to attack his. The storm rolls in. The rain falls in torrents. He watches in concern as the dry creek bed begins to fill with water, and then his concern deepens as the water rises, and suddenly the stream is overflowing its banks. And then within a short period of time, as the water continues to fall, the stream has become a wide, raging river that is slamming against the walls of his home.

This is when the long-forgotten difference between these two homes reveals itself. Notice the end of his building, verse 27, "... the rain fell, and the floods came [same language as against the other man's house, same storm], and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell - and great was its fall." Again, notice how Luke describes this over in Luke 6:49, He says, "... the torrent burst against ... [that house that was built on the ground without a foundation] ... and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great."

Now my father-in-law used to say, when you read the Scripture, approach it with a sanctified imagination. Think for a moment of what really happened here. How did this unfold? As that water keeps hitting the side of his home, hitting the stone walls, it is also going beneath those walls, and it is causing that sandy soil on which his home is built (which was hard during the dry season, it's hard for most of the worst of the rainy seasons), but now here is this massive storm that has caused the creek to flood, that has brought a flood of water raging against his house, and the swirling, raging water of that overflowing wadi begins to wash out the foundation of his house, wash out the soil on which his house is built. The force of the rushing water, the howling winds, and just the dead weight of that structure combined, soon the entire house collapsed into itself, and portions of it were borne away in the floodwaters. He lost everything, probably including his own life. That's the story.

Now, at this point, the basic spiritual significance of the elements of Jesus' story should already be clear to you. The wise, careful builder is a genuine Christian. The foolish builder is a false disciple of Jesus Christ. It's a person who has merely made a profession of faith, but who doesn't really know Christ. And the two different, but very similar looking, first century houses represent the external Christian lives of two professing Christians, whose lives at first glance look very much the same. They have both been connected to Jesus. They have both made professions of faith in Christ. They have attended worship together. They have listened to Jesus teach together. They have served together, They have done many of the same things together.

But one of those lives is a façade; it's a fraud. There's no real love for Christ. There's no real obedience to Christ. Like those in verses 21 - 23, this foolish builder, this false professor, this false disciple desperately wants forgiveness., H desperately wants to be in heaven. He is even willing to enter the narrow gate, to believe at some level (although not a saving level) the true Jesus and the true biblical gospel. But he isn't willing to abandon his own way and walk the narrow way. He's not willing to live in obedience to Jesus Christ. That clearly shows that this man's faith is not real. It's not genuine. It's what theologians call "historical faith." It's like the faith of the demons.

See, I don't want you to miss the fact that both of these builders (in the story Jesus tells), both of these men know and understand the facts of the gospel. Don't miss that. They both understand that they are sinners, that they have rebelled against God, that their sin deserves God's wrath and judgment. They both understand who Jesus is. They call Him "Lord." They understand that He's deity. They understand that He's brought a saving message through His perfect life, lived in the place of sinners who will believe. They understand that He died, will die as a sacrifice in order to pay for sins. They understand His resurrection, but that's where their faith stops, one of them. You see, they both know and understand the facts of the gospel, and I could even go one step farther and say they both agree that the facts of the gospel are true, just like the demons do.

But saving faith is more than those two things. Let me say that again. Saving faith is more than knowing the facts of the gospel, and it's more than agreeing that those facts are true. In fact, let me explain saving faith to you. In theological terms there are three basic components of saving faith. True, saving faith has three parts. If you lack one of these parts, you're not a Christian.

Number one, there is what is called in Latin, "notitia," "notitia". It is the knowledge of the facts of the gospel. You cannot be a Christian; you cannot be saved unless you have a basic knowledge of the facts of the gospel that I just recited for you a moment ago. But knowing the facts of the gospel doesn't make you a Christian.

There's a second element to true saving faith, not only "notitia," but "assensus," is the Latin word. It means a mental assent to the truthfulness of the gospel. You see, there are people who can recite to you the facts of the gospel and then say it's not true. So, not only do you have to know the facts, you have to assent that those facts are true. But folks, true faith doesn't stop there, because the demons believe in that way. They know the facts, and they believe the facts are true.

There's a third part of saving faith that differentiates historical faith like the demons have, from true saving faith, and it's "fiducia." It means trust. It is trust in the person of Jesus that causes you to abandon yourself and everything pertaining to you, and to follow Him as Lord. You believe in Him to such an extent that you are willing to risk everything on Him. In The Gospel According to Jesus, John MacArthur wrote about this parable:

What seems at first glance to be a very simple story is in fact a powerful commentary on people who have heads full of knowledge but hearts empty of faith. This is the final repetition of the central theme of the Sermon on the Mount that those who do not manifest genuine righteousness will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Genuine believers do not receive Christ without continuing in Him. They do not hear His Word and fail to listen to it. They do not know His commandments and fail to keep them. They do not say that they know God and deny Him with their deeds. The only validation of salvation is a life of obedience. It is the only possible proof that a person really knows Jesus Christ. If one does not obey Christ as a pattern of life, then professing to know Him is an empty exercise.

Let me ask you this morning. Which are you? Are you the wise man in Jesus' story, or are you the fool? Is your faith living, saving faith that includes all three of those elements? Or is your faith like that of the demons, a dead, damning faith that knows the facts of the gospel, agrees they're true, but you have never been willing to turn from your own way and trust in Jesus wholly and completely, and follow Him as Lord.

Is your profession of faith in Christ real, or is it phony? The answer to those questions really all depends on your answer to this question. Do you hear what Jesus says and do it? Or, let me put it another way. Is your life characterized by radical submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ? That's the point of this parable. And next time we will consider it in detail together, applying the spiritual lesson of the two builders.

Let's pray together.

Father, thank you for this magnificent story. We are amazed at the teaching of our Lord, at its simplicity and yet its profundity.

Father, I pray that You would help us to look at this story and all of us who profess Christ. Lord, may we realize that we are one of these two builders. There are only two choices for every professing Christian. Father, I pray that You'd help us to take a long, hard look at whether our faith is living, saving faith, that includes not only a knowledge of the facts, not only an assent to the truthfulness of those facts, but an unreserved trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord. Father, I pray that You would work in our hearts. Examine us through Your Word. Even this week, Father, help us to contemplate this simple story and prepare us to see our Lord unfold its spiritual lessons next week.

We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

The Sermon on the Mount