Sunday, June 14, 2020

Sermon -- 2nd Sunday after Pentecost (June 14, 2020)

MATTHEW 7:15-29


Portions of this sermon are credited to Dr. Kenneth Bailey's book, “Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes”; InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove, IL; (c) 2008.

In the name + of Jesus.

      After a lengthy sermon about what following Jesus actually means, Jesus concluded with a parable about two men who built a house.  We usually pay attention to the fact that one house remained standing and the other fell with a great crash.  What we probably don't recognize is that both men built a house.  If you had looked at each house during its construction, and if you had inspected each house after its completion, you would not have noticed a difference.  Both had walls which were made of field stones, straight and sturdy.  Both had roofs that did not leak.  Each was provided a sufficient dwelling place for their families.  Everything appeared to be in good order at each house.
     But we are not to be deceived by what we see.  We see people whose lives appear to be in good order.  They are healthy, successful, and happy.  And don't pretend they are not.  It does no good to try to convince people that they are not happy.  Their kid's travel team wins tournaments.  When they aren't doing that, they enjoy their lake house.  They may have had to work from home, but they did not lose their job to COVID-19 problems.  What's not to love?  Many unbelievers are plenty happy with their lives.  They don't need Jesus to make them happy.  This is fine; because the goal of the Jesus is not to make people happy. 
     From the outside, there does not seem to be much difference between a Christian and an unbeliever, any more than there seemed to be a difference in the two houses that were built.  The problem with the foolish builder is not that he built a bad house; it is that he built it with no foundation.  Now, to understand how that could be possible, we must understand what it was like to build a house in Jesus' day.  You did not build a house in the rainy season; you waited until summer when you had week after week of hot, dry days to build.  But with the hot, dry days came hard, dry ground.  The ground itself was like bronze (Leviticus 26:19).  If the ground is as hard as bronze, that should serve nicely as a foundation.  So the house was built, and it was solid.  The other man, however, toiled and sweated and ached as he chiseled down through the rock-ground in the oppressive heat.  Because he labored longer and harder to have the same house, he was the one who appeared to be the fool.
     But the rainy season returns every fall.  When the rains hit the ground, the ground softens up.  What had been hard as bronze suddenly has the consistency of chocolate pudding.  What appeared to be a sturdy foundation gets washed away by torrential storms and flash floods.  As the ground gets eaten away, the stones in the wall began to bulge out.  Finally the walls collapsed and the house was in ruins. 
     As long as your world does not have any problems, your life will appear to be just fine.  Many people who are healthy, successful, and happy are convinced that this is how life is supposed to be.  Even Christians are convinced life should be that easy.  When life is easy and people are happy, there does not appear to be any advantage to being a disciple of Jesus.  But then the storms come.  It did not matter who the builders were, neither could avoid storms.  As I had said before, Jesus does not promise that being a Christian will make you happy.  Being a Christian does not make you immune to problems and tragedies.  Just as the storms and winds and floods pounded both houses, so every life will see its share of beatings, too.  You may suffer physical loss of property and wealth.  You may suffer mental anguish of slander or hatred from others.  You may suffer personal loss of loved ones.  You may suffer spiritually with guilt or doubt.  All of these will destroy happiness, whether you are a Christian or not.
     But Jesus alone is your solid foundation.  If your life is founded on Christ, even if you lose a lot, you do not lose the goodness and mercy of God.  Even if you should die as a result of life's challenges and tragedies, you will not lose your place in the kingdom of God.  The Savior who conquered death in his resurrection will raise you up at the Last Day to live in glory forevermore.  So, having this rock-solid foundation matters.  Jesus alone is the solid foundation; and nothing matters more than that. 
     But how do you know you have built your life on it?  Remember, the houses of both builders looked fine until the storms came.  So, how can you be sure that you are not deceived?  Jesus answers: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24)  Did you catch that?  Jesus did not merely say, “Pay attention to God's word,” which is what we heard in the lesson from Deuteronomy.  Jesus commands you to heed “these words of mine.” (Matthew 7:24)  Every once in a while, you may hear someone assert that Jesus never claimed to be God.  But he surely does.  Jesus says that his words alone are the words that save.  Jesus alone provides a foundation that will never be destroyed or even moved.  Jesus alone is the solid foundation for you.
     Jesus answers: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24)  Now, if you strive to do all that Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, you will find it impossible to do.  God may have filled you with a desire to do it—and you should because it is God's will—but you can't.  You and I are sinners, and we still fail to hear and do all that Jesus tells us.  But Jesus' words are not just commandments.  Jesus' words are also words of grace.  Jesus alone is the solid foundation for you.  You will not be destroyed on this foundation; for Jesus alone saves you.
     If Jesus is the solid foundation, that means everything rests on Jesus.  Jesus does not tell us God's commands no longer apply.  Jesus does not change God's will.  God's will is unchanging and unending.  Rather, Jesus fulfills God's will.  The obedience that God commands Jesus has done for us.  And the judgment we deserve Jesus has endured on our behalf.  By this exchange—Jesus' holiness in exchange for our guilt, and Jesus' condemnation in exchange for our pardon—we are redeemed.  We are delivered into God's kingdom.  The Lord himself establishes us on a foundation which remains in all circumstances.  The storms of life may pound on you hard, and they may sweep away many things that seem important and precious, but they cannot drive away the love, mercy, and salvation of Jesus.  Loss of wealth does not eliminate the riches of heaven.  Loss of reputation does not change your status as God's saint.  Not even death can rob you of the resurrection to eternal life.  On the Last Day when all will be raised from the dead to stand in judgment before the Lord, you will stand in confidence.  For you will not be judged on your merits, but on Christ's.  You do not stand on your own foundation; Jesus alone is the solid foundation for you.  This will never be taken from you.
     Jesus alone is the solid foundation.  He urges us not to be deceived by what seems right, what looks right, or what sounds right.  When Satan seeks to deceive us, he is going to make his lies sound right and sensible.  For example, he will tell you that Jesus just wants you to be happy.  It sounds appealing; I want to be happy too!  But sadly, my sinful nature especially wants to be happy and leads me to crave things that will perish—sports, entertainment, food and drink, leisure, and so on.  While those things are not wicked, and while such things will make me happy until my dying day, none of them save me on my dying day or any day before then.  But Satan will convince me that God wants me to have them because he wants me to be happy.  “Beware of false prophets.” (Matthew 7:15)  They are seductive and will help you build a lovely house but it will all collapse in the end.
     Jesus alone is the solid foundation for you.  Here is the hard truth: God does not want you to be happy; God wants you to be saved.  God wants you to know that his favor rests upon you, even when storms come, destroy your happiness, and make you miserable.  God wants you to know that, when you are struggling with guilt and regret, that the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies you of all sin.  God wants you to know that when the storms of life separate you from wealth, health, and even loved ones, nothing will separate you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  And God wants you to talk about these things regularly with your family and loved ones so that they are not seduced by momentary pleasures.  If your goal is to make your family happy, you will give them worldly gifts which will make them excited for a while.  If your goal is to see your family in heaven, then you will teach them Jesus' words and bring them to receive Jesus' gifts.  That will give them a foundation which will enable them to stand in the worst of storms and at the final judgment.
     Jesus alone is the solid foundation which guarantees forgiveness, peace, and life everlasting.  All other things will pass away.  But Jesus lives and reigns forever, and only those who trust in him will live and reign with him.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Due to recurring spam, all comments will now be moderated. Please be patient.