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 the sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.
We have been seeing how much of the Sermon on the Mount is about family life as children of the Father. Our heavenly Father cares for His children, and He provides for their needs. He also gives us instructions, to help us grow in wisdom and discernment and also to keep us safe.
We have been warned to beware of false prophets, who are wolves in sheep’s clothing. We have also been warned not to assume that faith, miracles, deliverances, and prophecies are proof that the person who is doing these things has personal salvation. This is a surprising, shocking, and slightly frightening scripture. It even shakes what we assume about salvation by faith – and I know that some would attack me for saying this. But there it is for us to read.
Yet when taken in the context of the larger passage of scripture, we can see that faith is still involved in out salvation, but as in the part of the process that leads us to become children of the Father. And that is the crux of the matter – this is about relationship, and without this relationship, without becoming a child of the Father, we are not clothed in the pure white garments of righteousness that is of Jesus.
It doesn’t matter how amazing your Christian life of ministry, because all works are as filthy rags before the Father – only the work of the cross, only by entering into that cruel death and being raised into new life in Christ, can any of us come before the Father.
The next part of the Sermon has the heading ‘The wise and foolish builders’ in my NIV. Many consider this section to be one of the parables of Jesus. Again the words are familiar because, if you do not know this scripture well, you may have sung the popular children’s song that is based on it, or the hymn that is based on these words.
Like many, I first learned these words as part of a children’s song. And like many children in schools, whether it is Sunday school or whether it is day school, it was a blind learning of the words without much thinking about the meaning. But the song was fun, and there were actions to it which made it even more fun.
Then in my teenage years I heard some evangelists speak. They seemed to be fond of this parable. And they used this to compare life that is built on the rock Jesus Christ with life in the world. I think this is an acceptable use of the parable, and helps to demonstrate something about the gospel. But now that I have read the bible for myself and done a lot of study, I can see that the words have a more specific meaning.
Jesus links them to ‘these words of mine.’ Which words? It is pretty obvious. Three chapters of Matthew’s gospel record the Sermon on the Mount, and this parable is the last part of the Sermon – so these words specifically refer to the Sermon.
With this in mind, I will briefly summarise some of the teachings of the Sermon. And for each teaching, there can be seen a link to what it means to being a child of the Father in heaven. But, although in one sense everyone is a son or daughter of God, yet not everyone is a child of the Father. Jesus, in the second part of the Sermon, clearly showed how legalism will lead to failure and not to acceptance in the Kingdom. He also showed that literalism will leave you falling far short of the standards expected. And so how do we become accepted in the Kingdom?
Of course, there is only one who is good enough, only one who was without sin, and his name is Jesus. In that wonderful act of love, he gave his own life as a sacrifice to pay the price of my sin and of your sin. I deserved that cruel death, not Jesus. It was my sin that drove the nails through his hands. And so, in repentance of my sins that placed him there, I identify with the death of Christ, and see my life as crucified there with him.
But that is not the end of this particular story. As I have identified with Christ and placed my worthless life on the cross, so with Christ I am raised up into new life. Now I can enter the Kingdom. Not only that, I can go to the capital, to the palace, right into the throne room and to the Father Himself.
I can’t do anything of myself for this privilege, because any works of mine would leave me clothed as in filthy rags, as the apostle Paul described (and as I have mentioned before, the language Paul actually used referred to soiled menstrual cloths, which to all Jews signified being religiously unclean – a more significant uncleanliness than mere filth). I also can’t buy my way into the Kingdom. There is nothing that I could ever own that would be valuable enough for this.
But I am allowed in as a son of the Father. And that is exactly the privilege of all those who have come to Jesus, repented of their sin, and identified with his death so that they can be raised, with him, into the new life. Because in this new life, they live in Jesus – no longer clothed in the filthy rags of our own ‘righteousness,’ but in the true righteousness of Jesus. The pure white garments that are right and acceptable for the royal palace.Now we can approach the Father. Now we can sit on His knees and call Him ‘Daddy.’
And so we have become adopted into the royal family (there is a special meaning for this word ‘adopted’, and it is not as the word is used today. But that is for another study), and are children of the Father.
But all children grow and changes happen to them. There are many things we expect to see. The body becomes bigger, taller, stronger. The sexuality becomes defined (although in heaven we are told there is no male or female, but why not imagine a maturing of the body with what that means, even if without sexuality). The ‘puppy fat’ disappears and the mature muscles and filling develop. The baby teeth fall out to be replaced by the adult set. Then the inner changes, because time brings experience, and experience adds to wisdom and ‘common sense.’ Shyness and anxiety over new things becomes replaced with confidence and inner strength. And so on…
So Jesus listed some characteristics that can be expected to be developing in the children of the Father. These are mostly found in the beatitudes at the start of the Sermon, but there are others further on. So encourage one another in these things, and let these things develop and become strong in your life. Jesus also showed the consequences of allowing these things to develop, which are mostly blessings. But there are also costs in regard to life on earth – because to grow as a child of the Father can result in persecution, hatred, being misunderstood, and so on.
But what is to be our response to all in the world? We are told that we are the light of the world – so don’t hide! Don’t be shy of revealing that you are the Lord’s. And continue to behave according to this. We are also salt in the world – preserving the good and preventing the rot. Disinfecting against disease and decay.
Jesus also talked quite a lot about not judging. We are still not perfected while in this earthly life. Unlike Jesus, we are not yet clothed in the resurrection body. We still have the body we inherited when born into fallen mankind. This body that was tainted by the world, and that can cause us to sin. So how can we judge when we are not perfected ourselves? Judgement brings division, discouragements, heartbreak and so on. These things are not wanted in the household of the Father, these things are not necessary among His children.
Jesus pointed out the hypocrites, but told us to please God rather than men. He taught us how to pray and to fast. And he told us not to worry about our needs, because Daddy will look after His children. So you will not be hungry, thirsty or naked. He told us that as we ask, like little children ask their parents, we will receive good gifts and have our needs met.
But he also taught not to seek riches. Rather to create riches in heaven. Seeking riches on earth can interfere with revealing the true love of Jesus as it should be shown. And then there were the words about this love. The love not only for our friends and family, but also for our enemies. In other words a love that is universal and unconditional – because this is how Jesus loved the world when he was on that cross at Calvary.
We are warned against the false prophets and the false teachers, and like any parent talking to their children, we are warned against going with the crowd, but rather to continue steadfastly in the path that is intended for us as children of the Father.
Of course, there was much more, but this is the main from the Sermon. Jesus wants us not only to hear these words, but to put them into practise. It is not enough only to believe in them, or to approve of them, or to share them with others. These things need to be put into practise in your own life.
It is when you do that, that is when you are building your house on the rock. There are difficulties in the world, and dangers too. It can be discouraging and disheartening. But if you are practising the teaching of Jesus, then you will be able to continue strong in the faith that the Father cares for you. You will have confidence to move onwards in your walk of faith.
But I can imagine the legalists grasping this. This is a weakness, a failing of fallen humanity. There is the great desire to ‘do something’ and to get it right. And to criticise those who are not doing it or who are not ‘getting it right.’ And yet, when you go through the Sermon, there is nothing to be legalistic about! These are the encouragements of a parent to His young children.
You are a child of God? Then these characteristics will develop in you as you mature. We didn’t have to do anything to grow as children, we just grew. And this is also true as the Lord’s children. We just need to encourage one another, and not to discourage or restrict any of these areas of growth.
We don’t need to do anything to be light and salt, we already are light and salt. So don’t hide the fact. Just be what you are!
And so on as we go through the sermon. But remember that children have a relationship with their parents. It is bad parenting to expect the child to be silent, or to be silent to the child. There is an interaction and relationship that is supposed to be the joy both of the child and of the parent. So speak with the Father – pray – and don’t be religious about it! You are the child and He is your Father.
I found that I became warmer and more grateful in my heart the more I studied the Sermon, because increasingly I saw that it was all about being children of the Father, and of the good and wonderful family relationship that we have with Him.
So remember that you are the beloved child of the best Daddy in the universe, and act accordingly, and so you will grow into that strong and reliable house that can withstand all that the world can throw against it.