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Sermon on the Mount: Two Foundations

The wise man built his house on a rock.

Written by Mike Biolsi on .

Notes

It’s what we do

FINALLY I have one of the easier passages! Thank you, David, for giving this one to me! This morning we have the parable about the two builders, or the two foundations - one who built on the rock and one on the sand. How many of you are familiar with this passage? 

Turn or tap to Matthew 7. It starts in Matthew 7:24 which begins with the word, “THEREFORE”. Anyone remember what David taught us about this word?

Whenever you see a “therefore” you need to ask, “What is that therefore there for?”.

The last time we had a therefore was in 7:12, so we have a clue that verses 13-27 are all connected. Remember, there were no chapter and verse numbers in the original texts - grammatical cues were used to help the reader/listener understand where different sections take place. 

Since this entire group of verses belongs together, let’s read verses 13-27 together:

Matthew 7:13–27 CSB
13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. 14 How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it. 15 “Be on your guard against false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. 16 You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So you’ll recognize them by their fruit. 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?’ 23 Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!’ 24 “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. It collapsed with a great crash.”

Connecting the context

THEREFORE is a pointer back to something that was previously said. In the immediate context, it would be referring to:

  • entering through the narrow gate
  • avoiding false teachers
  • knowing God vs being known by God

Two roads/gates

There are two roads - one that leads to life and one that leads to destruction. There are two gates, a wide one and a narrow one. WE are commanded to choose the narrow gate and the difficult road. But HOW? The listeners on the hill would be wondering HOW to choose the right path, and up to this point Jesus had not told them. That is the therefore! 

False teachers

The crowd was told to be on guard against false teachers - the wolves. The way you will recognize them is by their fruit - good fruit from good trees, bad fruit from bad trees. Bad fruit from bad hearts and false teachers. But WHAT is that bad fruit? What does it look like and how will I know it? That is the therefore!

Knowing God

In the verses just before this, people called out, “Lord, Lord”.  They seemed to know Jesus but Jesus did not know them. They even did works in the name of Jesus but Jesus said he did not know them. Then he called them lawbreakers. So, how can I be sure that I am known by God? That is the therefore!

In Matthew we tend to see each section as being it’s own little microcosm, but they all belong together. Luke ties these teachings of saying we follow God and the parable of the two builders together. ⚡

Luke 6:46–49 CSB
46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do the things I say? 47 I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them: 48 He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. When the flood came, the river crashed against that house and couldn’t shake it, because it was well built. 49 But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The river crashed against it, and immediately it collapsed. And the destruction of that house was great.”

This particular teaching of Jesus, recorded both here and in Luke’s gospel, is the only place in the scriptures where we have this double title of “lord, lord”.  

Lord (κύριος)is a title of authority. If I call someone Lord I am demonstrating that they have authority. Often when we see a double word like “lord, lord” it is ascribing to that person that he is the supreme of something. In this case the ultimate authority above all others.  

Elsewhere in the scriptures we read that Yahweh is the king of kings and lord of lords. A little different grammatical structure but the same statement:

Deuteronomy 10:17 CSB
17 For the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awe-inspiring God, showing no partiality and taking no bribe.

Yahweh is the supreme of all gods (and there are others) and he authority above all other authorities. This was not just an ancient understanding of Yahweh, it still existed after Jesus’ resurrection:

1 Timothy 6:15 NLT
15 For at just the right time Christ will be revealed from heaven by the blessed and only almighty God, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords.

Yahweh, the almighty God is the lord of lords. So for Jesus to make the statement that people will approach him as “lord, lord” was very likely his way of declaring that he IS indeed, God. This is a very bold statement!

But there seems to be a distinction between acknowledging Jesus as the lord of lords and obeying him. 

Would you agree that there is a difference between knowledge and action? knowing and doing? 

WE understand this concept in many parts of life and we should understand it with our FAITH. David reminded us last week, that even the demons knew who Jesus was.  We are told that they believe and even tremble: ⚡

James 2:19 CSB
19 You believe that God is one. Good! Even the demons believe—and they shudder.

Go on to read James next verse, and you have a summary of our teaching for this morning: ⚡

James 2:20 CSB
20 Senseless person! Are you willing to learn that faith without works is useless?

To just KNOW and not to ACT is the situation Jesus is addressing. Why would people call Jesus the Lord of lord - the ultimate authority, and then refuse to do what he says? That is lip service, not life service. 

To hear the word of God and not act on it is silly. To know about God and chose to not follow him is crazy. To attend church services, read your Bible, listen to spiritual podcasts and worship music and not live a life surrendered to the will of God is tragic. ⚡

James 1:22 CSB
22 But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

How does this relate to the other teachings?

The bad fruit is fruit that is in opposition to the teachings of Jesus, or that diminishes his teachings. 

It is easy for us to fall back into the simple sinful choice of defining life on our own terms (wide road) and it is hard to stay focused on living for God sometimes (narrow road).

Torah Example

The more I study this section of teaching from Jesus the more I see it as his modern, contextual application of a very familiar passage from the Torah. Near the of the life of Moses, just before Joshua becomes leader and brings the people into the promised land, Moses had these words about their covenant with Yahweh (their relationship with God):

Deuteronomy 30:11–20 CSB
11 “This command that I give you today is certainly not too difficult or beyond your reach. 12 It is not in heaven so that you have to ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven, get it for us, and proclaim it to us so that we may follow it?’ 13 And it is not across the sea so that you have to ask, ‘Who will cross the sea, get it for us, and proclaim it to us so that we may follow it?’ 14 But the message is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may follow it. 15 See, today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and adversity. 16 For I am commanding you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, statutes, and ordinances, so that you may live and multiply, and the Lord your God may bless you in the land you are entering to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away and you do not listen and you are led astray to bow in worship to other gods and serve them, 18 I tell you today that you will certainly perish and will not prolong your days in the land you are entering to possess across the Jordan. 19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, 20 love the Lord your God, obey him, and remain faithful to him. For he is your life, and he will prolong your days as you live in the land the Lord swore to give to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

These seems to be the same message Jesus has for his listeners: chose the path of life, avoid the things that will lead you astray, obey God’s commands. 

It is difficult, but it is not TOO difficult. It is certainly not impossible!

The outcome

When we go back to Matthew 7, we are seeing what the end result will be. Two people who make the decision - one for the broad gate and one for the narrow. One choosing obedience and one choosing disobedience:

Matthew 7:24–27 CSB
24 “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. It collapsed with a great crash.”

Group 1 - vs 24/26

STRUCTURE: verses 26 & 24 are almost an exact parallel.  Word for word with a few exceptions: ⚡

  • and acts  ->  and doesn’t act
  • wise  ->  foolish
  • rock  ->  sand

the contrast of the person and the foundations are meant to be polarizing - wise and fool, rock and sand. 

Two houses

“his house” - is not seen as negative or positive. I believe it is simple stating the fact that we are constantly building our lives, our houses. Everything you and I do in this life is part of our building. Each man builds a house. 

There are not many specifics of what is being built - size, materials, etc. The focus is what this house was built UPON. The foundation. 

Two foundations

There is not much in the scriptures about the sand being bad or unstable. Jesus appears to be making an application to the culture of his day and not drawing on the Tanak.

BUT there are a TON of references regarding God as our rock our fortress and our salvation. This sis transferred into language about the Messiah later on who is a rock that the religious will trip over and a foundation for those that follow God. 

Two builders

We then have our two builders. One is wise and one a fool. The difference is not in their carpentry skills, not their budgeting ability, nor their engineering prowess, but whether or not they OBEYED Jesus when they built. 

Psalm 127:1 (CSB)
1 Unless the Lord builds a house, its builders labor over it in vain; 

These two builders are simply referred to a wise man and a foolish fellow. Scriptures a RIPE with verses on the wise vs the fool: ⚡

​Psalm 14:1–2 CSB
1 The fool says in his heart, “There’s no God.” They are corrupt; they do vile deeds. There is no one who does good. 2 The Lord looks down from heaven on the human race to see if there is one who is wise, one who seeks God.

The fool rejects God. The wise seek God.

Proverbs 3:5–7 CSB
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight. 7 Don’t be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.

The wise trust God, know God and follow the path God lays out for them. The unwise, or wise in their own eyes, do not fear God and do evil. 

Group 2 - vs 25/27

The two groups of verses have another fun structure to them.  We often present positive action with positive results. Jesus is doing the same, but the positive results is presented in a negative grammatical structure. ⚡

If you DO obey then it DOESN’T collapse.

If you DON’T obey then it DOES collapse.

What a fun structure. If Jesus had said, “If you obey me you will stand firm” that would have been the same ultimate conclusion, but with a different focus. Jesus wanted the focus to be on the collapse or destruction. 

If you do the RIGHT THING you WILL NOT face the NEGATIVE thing. 

If you do the WRONG THING you WILL face the NEGATIVE thin. 

The emphasis is on the collapse and destruction. Why? Because this section is about judgement. 

The STORM

Many times this passage is used as a “live for God and survive life’s storms” banner. Frankly, that is NOT really what it is about.  A storm is typically symbolic of the judgement of God. This passage is about the end game - the final judgement. 

Isaiah 28:2 CSB
2 Look, the Lord has a strong and mighty one—like a devastating hail storm, like a storm with strong flooding water. He will bring it across the land with his hand.

This is expounded upon a little further down in this chapter: ⚡

Isaiah 28:16–17 NLT
16 Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “Look! I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem, a firm and tested stone. It is a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on. Whoever believes need never be shaken. 17 I will test you with the measuring line of justice and the plumb line of righteousness. Since your refuge is made of lies, a hailstorm will knock it down. Since it is made of deception, a flood will sweep it away.

The foundation, the cornerstone that is safe to build on is the Messiah - Jesus. And God will eventually judge all people and those that have the foundation of Jesus will be safe, others will be washed away by the storm and flood. [a similar image is found in Ezekiel chapter 13]

 It was with a flood of waters that God wiped out Pharaoh and his armies in the Red Sea. It was with a great rain and flood that God destroyed the inhabitants of the earth during Noah’s time. Jesus will revisit this theme of judgement, flood and Noah later on Matthew’s gospel. (chapter 24)

This passage is not a promise that you will escape the perils of this life. It is not a promise that you will make it through every hard season. Consider Job, Esther, Nehemiah, Hosea, Paul, Stephen - the list goes on and on. 

This is a series of sermons on the KINGDOM - and our goal is to be counted among those that are recognized by our Lord at the end of all days. 

IMMEDIATELY, this section is a teaching AGAINST the Pharisees and the religious systems they had built. It is also a teaching against those that would try to claim that they are “the people of God” by birth and are grandfathered into the covenant no matter how they live. 

These two groups are the people sitting on the hill listening to Jesus!

Your lineage will not save you and does not make you acceptable in God’s eyes. 

Your religious systems and heritage does not save and and make you acceptable in God’s eyes. 

YOUR FAITHFUL OBEDIENCE to the Father is what is required. Trusting God by acting in faith. Making him LORD by joyfully living according to his ways. 

The judgement.

The judgement for those in disobedience is destruction. We read that with the broad road, and now we read about it more graphically in this conclusion. 

However, we will ALL face judgement. The storm rages around BOTH builders. One withstands the judgement and the other is wiped out. 

Pounded

POUNDED: most translations have the same English word for vs 25 & 27. ⚡ However, the Greek word in verse 25 means “fell” and the word in verse 27 means “beat against” and actually comes from the root word that means “to cut off”. The rest of the words that parrot each other do so exactly in the Greek. These are a wordplay in Greek - two very similar looking and sounding words with two different meanings.

Though subtle, I like the nuance of the two words. Those that hear and obey will face judgement, and their works, what they build, will be tested, but they will not be smashed. Those that choose to reject Jesus and live in disobedience to the Father will be destroyed and cut off.  

The Apostle Paul wrote about this to the church that met in Corinth:

1 Corinthians 3:10–15 CSB
10 According to God’s grace that was given to me, I have laid a foundation as a skilled master builder, and another builds on it. But each one is to be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, 13 each one’s work will become obvious. For the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. 14 If anyone’s work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will experience loss, but he himself will be saved—but only as through fire.

These are the people who have the foundation of Jesus, so they are known by our Lord. They still face judgement (though FIRE and not FLOOD in this passage) and what they built will be tested. Some of it will be burned away but they will not be destroyed. 

I like the nuance of facing the rain, flood and wind and not being pounded compared to being pounded and utterly destroyed because I think it carries the heart other teachings of the scriptures well.

Conclusion

The difference between the narrow gate and the wide gate is obedience. The difference between good teachers and wolves is obedience. The difference between knowing God and him knowing us is obedience. 

Friends, we can attend services, read our Bibles, listen to podcasts and sacrifice our finances for Jesus, but to obey is better than sacrifice. The TRUE follower if Jesus, the one who enters the narrow gate and is known by the Good shepherd is the one who hears and ACTS - who listens and follows in faith. 

QUESTION: do you see living for God and obeying his word as a burden or a blessing, a problem or a privilege? ⚡

1 John 5:1–4 CSB
1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father also loves the one born of him. 2 This is how we know that we love God’s children: when we love God and obey his commands. 3 For this is what love for God is: to keep his commands. And his commands are not a burden, 4 because everyone who has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith.

Let me put verse 3 on the screen in BIG print: ⚡

1 John 5:3 (CSB)
For this is what love for God is: to keep his commands. And his commands are not a burden,

I think sometimes we see obedience as a burden rather than a blessing. And I think it is possible for us to spend more time looking for the boundaries and loopholes than just simply trusting God. 

Before a child is even a year old they can test the boundaries, can’t they? Don’t touch that - and they look at you as if they are going to touch it, or maybe they actually do touch it to see what will happen. 

We are not taught this, it is in our nature from birth to live in rebellion and push limits. 

As children of God, we should not be looking for excuses or for how far we can push the boundaries of what God has commanded. Instead we should be ridiculously excited to have the privilege of living for God! He has not only give us a book about him to know what that looks like, through Jesus we have direct access to HIM and through the spirit we have the strength and wisdom to life it out. 

Those that hear the word of Jesus and obey - they are the ones who enter through the narrow gate on the difficult road because they have believed that Jesus is the Messiah.

Those that hear the word of Jesus and obey - they are the ones that are known BY Jesus and by the Father because they have a love relationship with God. 

Those that hear the word of Jesus and obey - they are the ones that will stand during the judgement of God because they stand on the foundation, the cornerstone of Jesus.

But that is IF we HEAR and OBEY. 

Psalm 1 CSB 1 How happy is the one who does not walk in the advice of the wicked or stand in the pathway with sinners or sit in the company of mockers! 2 Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams that bears its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. 4 The wicked are not like this; instead, they are like chaff that the wind blows away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand up in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. 6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to ruin.

 


Sermon on the Mount: Two Foundations

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North Country Fellowship Church
NCF was started in 1987 to minister to the growing population of Fort Drum and Jefferson County. Located in Carthage, just minutes away from Ft Drum, Lowville and Watertown, it is a blended congregation of local and military folks, single soldiers, young families and grandparents.