Series on the Mount
November 25, 2007
Last sermon on the mount! Jesus wraps up his sermon with a short parable. What else? An illustration! This is an illustration on how to improve your home. How to make your house (which is a symbol of your entire life as in the House of David) stronger and more resilient. Turn to the end of Matthew chapter seven.
As you find your place, I want to share another picture that I found. Jesus’ teachings are intensely practical on how to live everyday and how to live as children in God’s Kingdom. However, I was wondering what is the point what the people in the picture are doing? Taking a picture of who? “These are my cousins but I don’t remember which is which.” “Smile. Smile, everyone. Are you smiling? Jameelah, your eyes aren’t smiling! Oh what’s the use!”
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation 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. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
To improve your home, it is very simple. It doesn’t matter how big your house is. It really doesn’t matter what materials that you use. Of course, I’m sure that most people’s houses since about 92% of the people were poor were about the same type and build. The biggest rule of real estate and the best way to make sure your home is improved is where you build.
Improving Your Home?
• Location, location, location!
Jesus tells about two people. One built their house on sand. The other on a rock. Most likely the one on sand was built in a “wadi.” Those are the places that become a wash when the rainy season hits. They literally fill up with water in seconds washing everything in them away depositing sand. This was a place to be wary of. Only a fool would build their house on sand because that meant that flood waters would be coming soon. Location!
Build on the rock. What is the rock? The teachings of Jesus provide the foundation on which to build one’s life. Putting them into practice. Living out the Shema of Jesus!!! Teaching others to do the same.
Remember that Jesus is giving a new interpretation of the law. It is something the people might see once in their lifetime. So Matthew tells us that the crowds were amazed at his teaching because he didn’t just teach what someone else taught, he taught a new way of looking at the law not to undo it but to fulfill or complete it. “You have heard that is was said… but I tell you…”
These teachings are the foundation for living out the Shema of Jesus to love God with all your being and love others as yourself.
• Prepare for storms
When Tim Taylor visits your home to record a show… Bad things will happen. Some just because we live in a messed up world with messed up people just like ourselves. Most will be beyond our control. But some things happen because of bad choices we make. But there are some bad things that happen because we follow Jesus.
Storms will come. Where is your house built? What have you built your life upon? Will it withstand the hardships of life and the persecution of the unfaithful? Without a sure foundation and practical application of what we have learned, your house will fall. It will be a great crash. You will self-destruct. You will give up. You will quit your faith. You’ll stop gathering with others to worship. You won’t have served others. The kingdom was never first so why would you make it first when you are backed into a corner? And in the midst of all the wind and rain and even waves that beat upon your house, the house still stands.
As Paul puts it, “In the midst of the flaming arrows that rain down upon you from the great enemy. The armor of God protects you. Even though you may be wounded, you will not fall when you have the armor of God upon you.”
This is not a grandiose picture of victory but more, as Brennan Manning says, of a victorious limp. It is not coming through life unscathed but walking through the valley of the shadow of death while not fearing evil. You don’t fear what could happen. You don’t even fear what probably will happen. You are focused on the here and now. Focused on living like Jesus and loving like Jesus. When we do not fear evil and face the fears that have driven us for so long, we are free. We have the courage to keep going. God’s courage in us.
The enemy then evicts us from the house of fear forever! We withhold the monthly rent of guilt, anxiety, fear, shame, and self-condemnation and are evicted. Not freed from a life of pain and suffering but freed to a hope that we will overcome it.
• Do what God has called us to do
Who builds the house? We do!! One of the greatest heresies of our day is giving over to God the things that we should be doing for ourselves. This is the greatest, most presumptuous attitude of sin in many Christian circles. We ask God to do for us what we can do for ourselves. Living in grace and trusting in God instead means that God does for us what we could do for ourselves!! And this is a promise you can trust in.
No matter what the storm and no matter how powerless you feel. If we simply trust God in faith and hang onto to our hope, which is in Jesus, and not in ourselves or in the government or in our employer or even in our families, then God does indeed do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
Teresa of Avila, “From silly devotions and sour-faced saints, spare us, O Lord.”
It would be like asking to be a great chef like Emeril. So you pray that God makes you a great chef and you come to me ask me to pray believing that God can do anything. But I say, “I have a better idea. While you are praying, go to cooking school and get a job in a restaurant and start making all kinds of dishes for your family, friends, and neighbors. Serve them these meals. Try it all while you are learning. Visit great kitchens and talk to other great chefs. Try even to attend some of the greatest cooking schools in the world and after thirty years, then you will be the great chef that you have envisioned.”
Or how about the alcoholic who comes in and says, “God, set me free from this bondage.” The alcoholic is even encouraged to go to a prayer meeting so that God does the miraculous. But the miracle is already available. Go to AA. Go to ninety meetings in ninety days. Get a sponsor. And work, really work, the steps. Read the Big Book. Study it! Then the miracle will happen.”
We presume that by saying, ‘Lord, Lord,’ the cancer will disappear. The bankruptcy will go away. Your infidelity will be forgotten.
The most profound and lasting trust in God often begins on the other side of despair. When all of our human resources fail, then we trust in God. When we stop wanting to be completely confident, reassured, and secure, then we truly begin to trust. When we quit wanting to control everyone and everything, then we can experience the depths of this thing called trust. When we stop trying to manipulate God, then trust just happens. When we stop asking “why” and quit trying to make sense of it all, then the cry of Jesus erupts from our lips, “Abba, into your hands, I commend my spirit.”
• Your house need not be perfect
God’s grace is sufficient. But it is hard to believe. We just need to stay on the rock. Stay on the teachings of Jesus. Loving others despite what the world says to us everyday. God’s grace is sufficient. Show mercy and you will be shown mercy.
But it is hard to believe. It is hard to trust God and it is hard to trust in His grace. If you really want to improve your house, trust in His grace to keep your house from crashing. But it’s hard. We hear the opposite from the world all the time.
“There is no such thing as a free lunch.”
“You get what you deserve.”
“You want money? Work for it.”
“You want love? Earn it. Show me that you deserve it.”
“Do to others before they do it to you.”
Grace is so difficult to grasp. Because you can’t earn grace. You can’t get grace by some con or trick. You can’t buy it. You can’t even find it by looking hard enough.
Grace is God telling us that He accepts us as we are. God loves us more than we will ever know just as we are. God sacrificed His very son so that we might have the chance to return to His Kingdom to live as His children.
When Jesus said these words later in Matthew (11:28-30), we see grace, “All you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” The yoke literally was what the oxen wore as they plowed the field. But in Jewish culture, it was a symbol of a Rabbi’s teaching.
When Jesus said these words, he was telling us that his teachings are not meant to be a burden like the teachings of the Pharisees that follow all these lists and rules and regulations in order not to sin. His teachings bring life. They bring a life of knowing God and hearing His voice, which is what Jesus says in John’s Gospel as the very definition of eternal life” knowing God. Jesus’ yoke is not meant to weigh us down even though they seem to be such a higher standard than the Law. It is because they are driven by love. God’s love in us as we love others with the love of God. Love is supposed to free us. Judging, comparing ourselves to others, and striving after stuff, puts us in bondage.
I don’t need spiritual cosmetics to become presentable to God.
Thomas Merton said, “A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.”
The greatest gift of grace that God has given me is that my self-worth, my self-esteem, does not come from within or from anyone or anything in this world but from God. Jesus loves me. Jesus love us.
God calls us to choose Him again and again. Worship is about renewal. Renewing our covenant or sacred promise to follow Him and His ways. It is about renewing our strength when we are weak. It is about renewing our hope. It is about renewing our courage to go on another week (that is being en-couraged). What do you choose today? Where do you choose to build our house? This is not simply a one-time choice although it could begin with a first-time choice. It is an ongoing decision to turn our lives and our will over to the care of God trusting in His mercy, His love, and His grace. It is daily deciding as we daily take up our cross to follow Him.
Which do you choose? I choose Jesus. I choose His ways. Today, I choose to put my house on the rock. I may not be perfect. But I know and want to know more the One who is.
Lord Jesus, we are silly sheep who have dared to stand before You and try to bribe You with our preposterous portfolios. Suddenly we have come to our senses. We are sorry and ask You to forgive us. Give us the grace to admit we are sinners, to embrace our brokenness, to celebrate Your mercy when we are at our weakest, to rely on Your mercy no matter what we may do.