How Will You Respond to Jesus?–Matt. 7:24-29

Tonight we finish the series on the Sermon on the Mount.  God has been gracious to speak to us through His Word, and I hope and pray that by His grace, we’ve learned more of what it looks like to be a follower of Christ through this series.

We finish up with a reminder that the words of Jesus are serious, and how we respond to Him impacts where we spend eternity. Join me in Matthew 7:24-29:

“‘Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.  And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.’  And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.”

Whether the people listening to Him realized it or not, the reason Jesus spoke with authority was because He is the authority!  According to Him, how we respond to Him shows not only whether or not we are wise, but whether or not we stand in the storm of God’s judgment.

In the story Jesus tells, the one who endures through “the storm” will be the one who builds their house on the rock, and the one who dies is the one who builds their house on the sand.  As is always the case with the words of Jesus, this is serious.  Jesus is talking about life and death.  He’s not talking first and foremost about the “storms of life.”  Although that’s a popular viewpoint, it’s wrong, and the context of the passage helps us see that.

Jesus has just finished talking about those who He will send to hell because he never knew them.  Before that, He discussed how those who fail to bear the fruit of true faith will be “cut down,” that is, they won’t be joining Him in heaven.  And, lastly, before that, Jesus discussed the way into eternal life with Him, through a narrow gate and hard way.  Based on the context, the “storm” Jesus is describing is the coming storm of God’s righteous judgment.

So what does it mean to “build our house on the rock?”  How can we make sure we have done this, and will stand secure at the judgment?  By listening to the words Jesus has said.  This is in reference to the previous words in the Sermon on the Mount. Make no mistake, the Sermon on the Mount is not a guide to earning salvation.  Jesus, in the beginning of His sermon, commends those who know they need mercy, and commends the broken-hearted, and calls them blessed.  All of the moral imperatives flow out of the gospel, out of a relationship with Jesus.  I had a seminary professor explain it this way: “The Sermon on the Mount is not a guide on how to get into the kingdom of God, but a description of what life looks like in the kingdom of God.”  Listening to Jesus’ words and obeying them is commanded, but it is only possible if we are a disciple of Christ.  So, the next obvious question…how do we become a disciple of Christ?

Before Jesus preached this sermon, He preached a much shorter sermon (at least from what’s recorded), in Mark 1:15: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of heaven is at hand: repent and believe in the gospel!”  We build our lives on the rock when we trust in Jesus as our God and receive Him as our Savior.  We build our lives on the rock when we repent and believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Repentance involves a confession of sin, an agreeing with God about our sin, and a turning from it, a desire to no longer go on in it, and a trusting in Christ as Lord to help us obey Him and kill our sin.  As we turn from sin and trust Christ to help us follow Him, we trust Him to save us, to give us His righteousness, to forgive us through His death on the cross.  We trust that what He’s done He’s done for us.  So following Christ, then, is not an exercise in earning righteousness, but in living it out.  We’ve come under the Lordship of Christ, and He has given us His righteousness.  He has changed our hearts.  He has forgiven us of our sin.  We now live to be who we are in Him, to bring Him glory and to tell others about Him, and toward this end, we listen to and cling to every word He says.  This is why Bible study is essential for the life of the Christian.  Simply put: You won’t follow Jesus well, if at all, without consistent time in His Word and in prayer.  Jesus Himself knew the Scriptures and prayed daily….how much more should we?

Knowing Jesus is what makes you wise.  Knowing Jesus and being united to Him is what allows you to live out what He’s said in the previous three chapters, and knowing Him in a saving way is what allows us to stand righteous before the Father on that great day of judgment.  Know Him.  Trust Him.  Follow Him.

Did you notice what happened to the other guy?  The guy who built his house on the sand?  In case you didn’t catch it, let’s read it again: “And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” 

Not listening to Jesus’ words, not submitting to Him as King, not admitting I need Him and trusting in Him as Savior, leads to eternal damnation.  We must not be so naive as to think that God is simply okay with us telling Him we’re not interested.  He’s God.  It doesn’t work that way.  Would it ever be acceptable for a child to look at His parents and say, “You know, I know you created me and everything, but you really don’t have a place in my life?”  Of course not!  Assuming the child has decent parents, there’s no excuse for such disrespect.  In the same way, while only those who know Jesus are children of God, we have all been created by God, and all have a responsibility to recognize Him as God, and when we don’t, God is rightly offended.  God alone is God, and it is terribly wicked for someone or something else to be recognized as “God” in a person’s life.  The punishment for our sin is hell.  Praise God He’s sent a Savior so we don’t have to fear judgment or hell, but can rejoice in Him forever.

If you learn nothing else from my posts, learn to trust in the finished work of Christ for your salvation and to commit your life to Him.  Learn to repent, to confess your sin and trust in Christ to help you follow Him.  Trust His grace.  Trust in Christ.  Learn Christ.  If you forget everything else, learn Christ.  If you forget everything else from the Sermon on the Mount (and I hope we won’t!), remember to build your life on the words of Christ, in this passage and in all of Scripture.  Make your life about Jesus.

Lord, may we never stop praising you for who you are.  May we continue to listen to your Word and follow you.  May you graciously lead us as our Lord and continue to stand for us as our Savior.  May you be glorified in all we think, say and do.

God bless,

Neal E.

I’m not sure when the next blog post will come.  School has started, work is picking up, and I’m involved in a new ministry this semester, so blogging unfortunately gets moved to the back-burner.  But if you subscribe, I promise you won’t miss anything!  Again, God bless!

What’s So Special about Holy Week?

This is a story I wrote for The Falcon, an online newspaper for The University of Montevallo.  Unfortunately, due to space, it wasn’t able to be published.  The story examines the events of Holy Week and their importance in our faith.  Enjoy.

This past week, Christians all over the world celebrated Holy Week, a week culminating in the greatest celebration of the Christian faith: Easter.  In this story, I’ll lay out why this week is so important and how it changes the way we should live, specifically looking at Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Let’s first take a quick look at the events leading up to Friday.  First, Jesus washes the disciples’ feet.  He did this to show them their need for His cleansing from sin, and to give them the example of service they were to echo.  We’ve come to call this day “Maundy Thursday.”  Make no mistake: The disciples’ feet were gross, and the job was usually reserved for the slave of the slave.

However, the God who had created all the universe took the form of a servant and washed the feet of sinful men, including the feet of the one who would betray Him (Judas Iscariot).  In this moment, Jesus showed love, foreshadowing the ultimate sacrifice He would make on the cross.

After the last supper, Jesus is arrested, beaten and sent to die by way of crucifixion.  Even though He had done nothing wrong or deserving of death, the crowd chose to crucify Him because He did not meet their expectations of the Messiah.

This was all to fulfill Scripture.  In Isaiah 53, the prophet Isaiah tells of the work of Christ.

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned–every one–to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

He died to accomplish salvation.  Later in the chapter, Isaiah says Jesus will “make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.”

Jesus, on the cross, paid for every sin, past, present and future, for those who will put their faith and trust in Him.  He took the wrath of God, and died the death that we deserved to die, so that we may be counted righteous in Him.  This leads Paul to write in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus cries out on the cross, “It is finished!”  When He uttered these words, He told us that the work of salvation, the payment of sin and the taking of God’s wrath by death, was done.  We cannot contribute to our salvation.  It is fully by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work.  And we can trust in His finished work for one reason:

He’s alive.

Saying “It is finished!” would amount to a lie if Jesus stayed in the grave.  It would have made Him a liar, and not worthy of our trust or obedience.  But He didn’t stay there.

The entire Christian faith rides on the resurrected Savior.  Let’s look at it:

“Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.”–John 20:1.  Mary goes to tell the disciples that the body of Christ is not there, and they come to investigate.  The disciples begin to understand that He is risen.  Mary stays at the grave.  Then Jesus shows up:

“Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’”–John 20:15-16.

Jesus calls her by name, and she recognizes Him as her risen Lord.

The implications of the resurrection are huge.  Paul writes the following in 1 Corinthians 15:

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas (Peter), then to the twelve.”–1 Corinthians 15:3-5.

It is of first importance.  The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the most important truth in the history of histories.  If it is true, it changes everything.  Paul says this later in the chapter:

“But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain….and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”–13:13-19.

Without the resurrection, there is no sacrifice for sins.  In rising from the grave, Jesus showed that His sacrifice for all of our sin was accepted before God the Father, the Judge of the nations.  That means that when I sin, I run to the cross, not looking to make another sacrifice, but to trust in the one He made, and receive the forgiveness that I have in Christ.

With His resurrection, Jesus gives Christians hope that we too will be raised one day.  With His resurrection, Jesus showed that not only is He alive, but that He is coming back.

And if He is coming back, we must live in expectancy of it.  The truth of the gospel, of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, changes how we view our lives, our sin, the world around us and eternal matters.

Jesus is Lord.  He’s not just my Lord.  He is the Lord, and one day, everyone will confess this, rather it be out of joy and gladness or fear and realization of the coming judgment.  In deciding to come back from the dead, He showed that He is God.

God the Father places God the Son in authority over all things, and to be Christian is to be submitted to Christ.  That means we embrace His truth and His ways.

David Platt, pastor of The Church of Brook Hills in Hoover, gives these “startling implications” of the resurrection:

1) Jesus is Lord over life and death.

2) Jesus is Lord over sin and Satan.

3) Jesus is Lord over you and me.

We have two responses: Turn and believe in Jesus, trust in His work and surrender to His Lordship, or turn away from Christ, reject Him and receive eternal hell.

In a postmodern world of relative truth, one truth remains absolute: Jesus is alive, and Jesus is Lord.  And He is coming back.  Will we surrender to His good and beautiful Lordship now, escaping sin and that which leads to death?  Or will we reject Him on our way to hell?

Because He is alive, we are free to come and trust in Him, and receive new life from the Lord.