The Christian – a Builder
Jesus was teaching a mixed crowd of people that included his disciples and a whole host of other folk some of whom were definitely sympathetic and some of whom probably weren't.
He has just about finished what he wanted to say on this particular occasion and wants to conclude with a challenge to his hearers.
The challenge is two-fold: what do men think of Jesus and what do they do with his words?
Although Jesus will later broaden out what he has to say to make it applicable to all, he begins with those who respond in an apparently positive manner to who he is, to those who call him "Lord, Lord".
We might be tempted to think that to have a high opinion of Jesus is enough. We might like to imagine that it is sufficient for men and women to say that they believe Jesus to be a good teacher?
But that wasn't what Jesus thought.
To this group of people Jesus puts a very direct question and it may be a question he wants to put to you this morning:
v.46 "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you?"
In what follows Jesus makes it clear that confession without obedience is meaningless. Jesus was not impressed by the vocal support of those who might speak out loudly in his favour – he wanted to see lives transformed and brought into harmony with God. Honour without obedience is but flattery and deceit.
The good news of Jesus Christ is not some kind of celestial insurance policy that allows us to go on living in the same old way but without having to worry any longer about any of the consequences. The salvation that Jesus has secured for us and which he freely offers us brings us both the forgiveness of our sins and deliverance from the dominance of sin in our lives. He sets us free to live the life we were intended to live. For us to go on living a life of determined disobedience would indicate quite simply that we have not genuinely experienced the gospel at all because deliverance from the dominance of sin is an integral blessing of the gospel.
Some folk have tried to suggest that while obedience is desirable to insist upon it turns the gospel from being a gospel of grace into a gospel of works. That, however, is to entirely misunderstand the nature of saving faith. When we are saved by the free grace of God alone by faith alone in Christ alone – God gives us a new life. The purpose of this new life is not that we should continue to do things our way – he has precisely saved us from that – rather he now expects us to perform the good works that he has prepared beforehand for us.
The genuine Christian recognises that he is not saved because he is now obedient but rather he is now obedient (even though his obedience is far less complete than it ought to be) because he has been saved.
There are two fundamental ways (and only two) of responding to Jesus and it is Jesus himself who describes what these responses look like in the lives of men and women. It is important for us to understand this and to act upon our knowledge.
The reason why it is so important for us to be clear is because we live in a world where fakes and counterfeits are in abundant supply and we need to be able to distinguish the true from the false.
We know all about counterfeits, don't we? A counterfeit is a copy of a more costly and genuine original. Such a fake is usually made by cutting corners: cheaper materials are used, the craftsmanship is poorer and the end-product is inferior. When confiscated by the authorities a fake Rolex or a fake Gucci handbag will end up being destroyed.
Now of course in some instances a counterfeit product may not have tremendous consequences – perhaps some knock-on economic effect upon the genuine manufacturer, perhaps some embarrassment and laughter if you're seen wearing a fake watch. However in another set of circumstances a counterfeit product could have much more serious consequences – fake pills could prove deadly and indeed have done so.
Jesus was concerned that his hearers were not duped into being satisfied with a counterfeit faith, a faith that was unproductive because such a faith was not faith at all and to rely upon what was a fake would have disastrous consequences.
Option One: vv.47-48 "Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built."
Option Two: v.49 "But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great."
As Jesus describes the two ways in which men and women respond to his claims and his teaching there are some similarities and some important contrasts.
According to Jesus everyone is a builder. Everyone is in the business of constructing their life, their life for which they will all one day have to give an account to God. That means that you are a builder too. The fact of building is not at issue; all that is at issue is the manner in which we build. What is the spiritual house which you are building most like?
How are you building?
It is not difficult to recognise which of the two options has Jesus' approval is it?
Option One is obviously the course Jesus wants us to adopt – this is the way followed by those who are not content merely to listen to what Jesus has to say and to approve of it they actually take it personally on board and try to do it. These are the characteristics of that option:
They come to Jesus and put his words into practice
They dig deep
They lay their foundations upon a rock
They survive when serious adversity comes their way
Option Two is sadly an option that is followed by many folk but it differs seriously from the first:
They don't come to Jesus – all building attempts then are done on their own – they don't put his words into practice
They don't dig deep but simply build
They don't bother about a foundation at all
They don't survive when catastrophe strikes – their ruin is complete
These two different responses to Jesus might have some superficial similarities but are really very different the one from the other.
To a casual observer the houses (or the life) being built may look much the same as foundations are not usually very obvious to the eye. Indeed the progress in building a house with no foundations at all will in all probability take place much more quickly. This can deceive many and can be a discouragement to the one who is trying to build seriously upon the truth of Jesus' words as he/she doesn't seem to be making anything like the progress of others.
How careful we must be not to applaud the progress of an edifice without foundations! How we need to be ready to encourage the slow work of deep digging and true foundation laying and that all the more so in a day when instant results are often the order of the day. It is perhaps worth noting that the higher a building is going to be the more important and deeper the foundations need to be.
To dig deep and to lay solid foundations will involve a person being very serious about Jesus' commands – he/she will be concerned about repentance, about the life of sanctification, about resisting temptation and doing battle with sin.
We must not envy the person who is indifferent to these matters and yet who seems to be getting on fine. When trials and troubles do come (and they will either in this life or when we are called to give an account to God for how we have lived in his world) the relative strengths of the two methods of building will be revealed.
Jesus could hardly portray the stakes higher than he has done – the alternative outcomes are survival or ruin. Survival means success, triumph and safety but the ruin experienced by those who have preferred their own building plans and methods to those of the Master will be great indeed!
Jesus spells out the alternatives so clearly doesn't he. I must urge you to take seriously what he says. Don't imagine that just because life is perhaps smooth now that it will always be so. Don't imagine that because many seem to get on fine without heeding Christ that it is possible to do so with impunity. A time will come when your building is tested and only the house that is built on the rock which is Christ will stand!
Some Final Comments about the Ongoing Nature of the Building Process
Look again with me at the man who follows Option N°1:
v.48 "he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built."
Have you noticed the various tenses of the verbs that are used? Let me highlight them for you.
This man who came to Jesus, heard his words and put them into practice is said to be like a man who "dug deep" past tense. And having "dug deep" he "laid – past tense – the foundation on the rock". There is a definite beginning to the life of a Christian – but this is a work that is done once – initial repentance and saving faith are at the beginning and never need to be revisited. In other words we don't have to repeatedly begin all over again as it were as though we were somehow falling in and out of salvation.
But then this man is described subsequently as one who is building his house – this is an ongoing task. The work of building a Christian life is not completed at the outset but is and will remain a work in progress until the very end. Don't think that once you've become a Christian that that is the end of the matter it really is just the beginning!
And yet this house which is still being built can also be described as an accomplished work when the streams or the floods come. We may be conscious of much progress that still needs to be made but the house established upon the rock which is Christ will nevertheless prove secure.
Friends, this morning, what are you doing with Jesus Christ?
Have you recognised him as the Lord? Have you called upon him for the salvation that he alone can give?
If you say you do believe in Jesus are you going on to show that your belief and commitment to him is the real deal. A counterfeit faith may look OK from a distance and fool others but if there is no obedience accompanying your protestations of loyalty to Jesus then know that your faith is not genuine saving faith. It will fail you when at the very time you need it most.
Jesus' story is a simple one. He doesn't say that the building of your life needs to be an elaborate one, it doesn't have to be quickly constructed, but it does need to be built upon sure foundations.
May the Lord enable to see just how important Jesus is! May he bring us by his Spirit to this Jesus who is the Lord! May he enable us to dig until we might lay our foundations upon Jesus rock! May he help us to keep on building properly as we rely upon Jesus and his wisdom and not on own!