Summary: If your life is built upon the words of Jesus, it will endure.
WHAT CHRISTIANITY IS
Matthew 7:21-29 (RSV)
21/ “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22/ On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23/ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’
24/ “Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; 25/ and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26/ And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; 27/ 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.”
28/ And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29/ for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.
You may recognize these words of our Lord as the closing paragraphs of the Sermon on the Mount. What began with the Beatitudes -- “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3) -- has now ended with this warning: “Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man” while “every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man” (Matt. 7:24, 26). The wise man, of course, built his house upon a rock, and it endured. The foolish man, unfortunately, built his house upon the sand, and it could not endure.
If your life is built upon the words of Jesus, our text claims, it will endure. And that’s what Christianity is: it is a durable life built upon the words of Jesus. Or, to put it in a more straightforward manner, Christianity is life. It is living. And it is listening.
I. Christianity Is Life
First, Christianity is life. This passage begins with a startling indictment: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (v. 21). Christianity is not simply an assertion of certain cherished ideas; it is a way of life. I would be so bold, in fact, to say that it is life. It is life centered in Jesus Christ. It is not just believing in certain religious teachings; it is not just acting in certain religious ways. It is, in the words of our Lord, doing the will of God.
This is an important distinction to make, because Jesus goes on to tell about the “many” who, at the last Day, will claim to have done some pretty great things in his name -- things like preaching and teaching and healing the hurts of others -- and Jesus will call their works evil and will deny that he ever knew them (cf. vv. 22f.).
Why? It appears that Jesus is saying that actions and words are not the decisive matters in life. The decisive matter is the grounding for our actions and words. Does someone speak and act out of a heart centered in God, or out of some other source? That’s the issue.
We are reminded of this repeatedly throughout the New Testament. The Apostle John tells us, “Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth” (1 Jn 3:18). And again, James tells us, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only” (Jas. 1:22). But watch out: it is not simply that we are to do something or other; we are to act “in truth.” We are to exhibit “the word” of God in our doing. In other words, our lives are not to be so compartmentalized that Christianity is little more than an avocation or an adornment for living. That kind of Christianity is not Christianity, because Christianity is life.
II. Christianity Is Living
Christianity is also living. It is living in reality, and it is living through reality. Jesus compared two builders, one “a wise man,” the other “a foolish man.” Both these men built houses. One house endured the storm; the other house did not. And the emphasis that we must not overlook is this: that the storm pressed upon the wise man’s house as fiercely as it did upon the house of the foolish man. Christianity is not a “by;” it is not an exemption from the harshness of living. But it is a living through. Not because the Christian is more determined than anyone else. Hardly! It is because a Christian’s life is “founded on the rock” (v. 25).