I always remember an experience I had as a boy on holiday in Mablethorpe on the Lincolnshire coast in the 1950s. At the far North end of the beach there was an RAF bombing range, littered with debris from shells and bombs. There were two quite large empty buildings on the beach made out of concrete blocks and both of them had sunk to almost 45degrees from horizontal in the sand. I always remember them when I read what Jesus said about building our lives on sand in Matthew 7. It is an unreliable, even treacherous foundation.
But what did Jesus mean about building “the house of your life” on sand or on rock? The answer is not only challenging but quite shocking. Building your life on the rock means building it on obedience to God, he says.
I want to draw three things out of his teaching. Firstly:
Christianity is obeying God, not just churchgoing
In Britain churchgoing is a minority activity. There is probably a much greater commitment on the part of churchgoers than there used to be when churches were better-attended. Surely that is a good thing. Well, yes, but Jesus requires more than that. He says: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (verse 21).
We use the word “Lord” of Jesus many times in church – in the liturgy and the hymns. But Jesus is saying that simply knowing and reciting the liturgy and the hymns is not enough. We can call him “Lord” until we’re blue in the face and still not enter the kingdom of heaven. It is only if we obey him as Lord and not just call him Lord that we shall enter the kingdom of heaven.
Sunday religion is not enough. Jesus requires a sincere daily commitment to him in obedience. On the Day of Judgment God won’t ask us how many hymns we’ve sung or prayers we’ve recited, but much we have shown our love for him by obeying him.
Secondly, he says:
Christianity is obeying God, not just miracle-working
Wow! That’s quite a statement! One would have thought that anyone who could heal in the name of Jesus or set people free from evil in his name or prophesy in his name or perform miracles in his name would be very close to God and acceptable to him.
But Jesus says that if it isn’t based on showing love for God by obeying him day by day it doesn’t mean entry into the kingdom of heaven. In fact Jesus says he will speak strongly to such people:
“Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (verse 22-23).
Thirdly, Jesus says:
Christianity is obeying God, not just hearing
I have met many Christians who know their Bibles well. They read it regularly on their own and in housegroups. They listen carefully to biblical sermons. They can quote chapter and verse. They may actually have deliberately memorized it. They rather look down on others, including Ministers, who don’t know the Bible very well (there are many such!). They have a high view of its authority and might even use the words “inerrant” and “infallible” of it.
But Jesus says that even this is not enough: “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.” (verses 26-27).
Judgment Day is not a Scripture exam. God won’t ask us how much of the Bible we have read and remembered, but rather how much of it we have obeyed. It’s all about showing our love to God by obeying him.
Finally, Jesus says:
Christianity is obeying God, not just living
It isn’t enough simply to get on with our lives, relating to loved ones, taking careful decisions, overcoming problems and challenges. Our priority must be to love God and to show that love by obeying him. Our main guide in so doing will be the Bible and the church fellowship will help us to understand it and put it into practice. Only then will we be building the house of our life on the rock and can we be confident of entering the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus says: “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.” (verses 24-25)
ConclusionSo we need to:
- Get to know the Bible.
- Think about what we learn
- Ask for God’s help
- Put it into practice: repenting of failure and low standards and seeking to know how to please God.
© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction