Dear Friends of Jesus Christ,
To live is to build. Each day, through your choices and habits, you are building up a life—like a stone mason pieces together a house.
You can’t check out of this process. And you can’t defer this building responsibility to someone else. To live is to build.
And its serious business, really, this building a life. Serious, first of all, because you have to live in the house that you build. If you cut corners now, future you will have to deal with a leaky roof or a faulty foundation. If you start bad habits now, future you is going to have to try to get out of them.
Its also a serious business because the world is hard on life as it is on houses. Wind. Rain. Floods. Persecution, sickness, betrayal. How will your life fare when its hit by hardship?
These are the kinds of questions and conversations that Jesus wants us to have. He ends his sermon by imploring us to build wisely. To construct our lives upon him, and his word.
“Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock…. 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.” Matthew 7:24-27
Its a super simple little parable. It features two builders. One wise. The other foolish. They both have access to the same good design and sturdy foundation. They both hear Jesus words with their ears. But only one builds to code. Only one from moves from hearing to doing. The other tries his luck on the sand.
Which builder are you?
You know, for the last 9 months we’ve been listening to Jesus. At a snails pace we’ve been analyzing the finer points of his great sermon.
We have heard with our ears.
And if you couldn’t join us on Sunday mornings, then you still have your Bibles. Jesus’ wise counsel is not hidden behind firewalls. You don’t need a monthly subscription to access his design for life. A quick google search will land you 50 different translations of the Sermon on the Mount, and 50 different commentaries. All free.
We have access. We have heard. Now what?
Will you wisely put his teaching into practice and so build a life that lasts? Or, will you say: “good sermon, Jesus” “Very inspiring” and then go on building your life however you please.
You can really see Jesus’ heart for his disciples here at the end of the sermon on the mount. He’s not threatening them with this call to trust and obey. Rather, he deeply desires that they become fully alive, living lives that matter; lives that are mature; lives that last. He challenges them because he loves them.
And what good words these are. These are words to live by. Words that lead to life.
I’m going to do a quick review of Jesus’ sermon and its main points. I want to paint a portrait for you, of a man who builds his house upon the rock. I’ll use masculine pronouns today, to describe this person, because it’s Father’s day. And wouldn’t we be blessed if the Father’s of our Church took the lead in putting these words into practice. But this teaching isn’t just for men. Its for all of us.
How Happy in God is the person that comes to God empty handed, knowing himself a beggar. He will be filled up.
He weeps over the brokenness he finds in his life and in the world. And he receives comfort in the gospel of Jesus’ death, resurrection and imminent return.
He has learned to not think of himself more highly than he ought, but is content to be a servant of the Lord.
This person hungers and thirsts for things to made right—in himself and in this world. And in the end, when God’s kingdom comes, he will be satisfied.
He is so gentle and patient with others. Eager to extend grace.
This person’s singular passion in life is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. And he will receive the desire of his heart.
He is a peacemaker. Not just a peace-lover, or peace-keeper. But his art-form is to enact peace in his areas of influence.
He endures persecution with joy, knowing that his saviour and Lord endured persecution for his sake too.
This person accepts the scriptures as God’s word, and accepts Jesus interpretation of that word as authoritative.
He not only refrains from breaking the 6th commandment, but is actively seeking to root out hatred and anger from her life.
He not only is refraining from committing adultery, but is fighting off lust like death. He is faithful to his spouse, till death do them part.
When this person speaks, he doesn’t twist or manipulate his words. You can always count on him to tell the truth.
He refuses to fight back. And insists on repaying evil with good.
This person loves as God loves. He loves his friends and his enemies. He prays for those who persecute him and blesses those who curse him.
Well aware of the dangers of hypocrisy, this man chooses to practice his faith in secret, more than he practices in public. When he gives, prays, and fasts, he makes sure that no one is watching except the one who sees what is done in secret.
He forgives, just as in Christ, God forgave him.
This man’s life is not defined by the pursuit of things that rust or are chewed away by vermin. Rather, his sights are set on heaven. And Instead of wasting time worrying about what he will eat and drink, or about his body, what he will wear, he trusts God and seeks first God’s Kingdom.
This man doesn’t peck away at the faults of others. He knows that’s a game that everyone loses. Instead he focusses on his own sins and invites others to help him grow in holiness. And as he walks that path, he becomes an encourager to others who are walking with him.
Not content to sit on his hands, this man pursues the things that matter. He asks, seeks, and knocks. And as he moves out into the world in faith, he finds that, in time, God answers, gives, and opens doors in God’s time.
Its not hard to spot this man. Though his faith and witness is not flashy, his life is directed towards Jesus Christ and the narrow way that leads to life. And when the season is right, you will find the fruit of righteousness hanging from his branches. His house is always full of guests. The neighbours flock there during storms.
Wise is the man who builds his house upon the rock.
Brothers and sisters. This is life as it is meant to be lived. This is a portrait of maturity.
The Psalmist says: How happy is the one who avoids the scoffers and the sinners. How happy is the one who delights in the law of the Lord. They will be like a tree planted by the water.
To embody Jesus sermon is to live in sync with the grain of creation and to harmonize with the coming Kingdom of God.
And the best example I can give you today of someone who lived this way is Jesus Christ himself.
He was so pure in heart. So content to be on mission with his Father and to fulfill the task laid out for him.
He humbly got in line with all the other sinners who were going out to the Jordan to be baptized by John, and his Father filled him up with his Spirit.
In the desert he was tempted by the devil. But he didn’t succumb to temptation. Instead, he responded calmly, and clearly with the Word of the Lord, his only weapon.
He showed mercy to the adulterous woman, and yet, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, he drove the money changers out of the temple courts.
Jesus was a maker of peace. making peace. He made peace between heaven and earth through his blood which he poured out on the cross. And he makes peace between Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and free. He incorporates them all into his body.
It looked like Jesus’ house had been taken down by the flood waters of sin and rebellion. But in reality, all the storms did was reveal that Jesus’ life was rooted on a much deeper and stronger foundation. His house was built upon the source of life itself, and God raised Jesus from the dead.
And now he calls to us. And he imparts to us his righteousness and perfection through faith. And he pours out his Spirit upon us.
And he says: Come and join me in living a life that matters. Join me in being salt and light in a dark and spoiling world. Put into practice my words and so become a neighbourhood that glorifies the architect’s name.
Jesus is encouraging us to action today. This is a call to action.
But I think we all know that action is difficult. Its one thing to buy the treadmill. Its another thing to actually get on the treadmill. Its one thing to have healthy food in the house, its another thing to eat healthy food. Its one thing to have a rock solid building plan, its another thing to actually build according to plan.
And I know, I feel it in myself too… Just because we spent 9 month studying the sermon on the mount, doesn’t mean that we’re instantly going to become a community of wise men and women.
It takes practice. And time. What matters is not that you make fast progress. What matters is that you continue to let Jesus reshape your living with his words.
My daughter Abigail is currently learning how to crawl. She’s not good at it yet, but she’s trying. As her Father, I want her to make progress. Its important that she learns to crawl. Its important that she learns to talk and walk. I want to continue to encourage her down the path of maturity.
But man, am I having fun watching her try. It is pure joy to watch her step out and try something new. And when she lands on her face, I laugh and pick her back up again. “That was so awesome, try again.”
And so it is with us and our Father in heaven. We bring him joy not because we’ve reached a milestone or can now pray for our enemies. We bring him joy, simply because we belong to him, in Christ his son. We are his and he is ours.
And so, as we begin to crawl towards Christ-likeness, you can bet that he’s cheering us on. And when we fall on our faces, he’s there to say: That was so awesome. Now try again. You’re going to get it one of these times.
And over time, with prayer, practice, and support, you will be amazed at the work that God can do in your life.
What section of the sermon on the Mount is Jesus encouraging you to integrate into your life today? Where section is calling your name? And how might you start crawling that direction?
We’re going to spend some moments in silence, to finish this sermon. In this time of silent prayer I encourage you to bring this question to Jesus. Ask him. And then note the places that he takes you.