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SERMON ON THE MOUNT: Building a Life  Matt. 7:21-29  Luke Rosenberger

My family has been here two years and we just love this body and being at South Fellowship and plugging in with the Young Adults.  A few weeks ago, we were going to have a worship night and I had this vision months before.  We were going to have lots of young adults come to the great outdoors of Colorado and enjoy seeing the creation God has created.  We’d have the mountains in the background and enjoy worshipping our Creator outside.  We’ve ended previous summers with a worship night in the park (Clement Park).  I was really excited about this year and wanted to plan something really cool.  A few months ago, the Ascent Project Band led worship here at South and my wife and I looked at each other and said, “This would be a great band to lead that night.”  I contacted them and they were willing to come.  Our own Erich Schmitt came out and set up all his sound equipment.  Earlier in the day, there was a chance of rain forecasted.  I was praying, “God, this night is for you. A hundred young adults would be coming to worship you.  We’re going to see what you’re going to do tonight.”  Everybody was praying for no rain.  My wife called me when she brought the kids to the park and asked, “Do you think we should go to the library first?”  I told them not to take the risk so they went to the library.

Let me tell you about my family.  I’m married to Ellen.  She’s an incredible mom, an author, and passionate worship leader.  We have four kids:  David, Emily, Lucy, and Elizabeth.  We’ve been blessed with their energy, excitement and their joy in our life.  I’m beginning my third year at Denver Seminary.

Back to the story.  The clouds got dark, the wind started picking up.  A few of us were across the way in a pavilion setting up for food.  It started sprinkling.  I said, “God, if it’s going to come, let it come fast and be done really quick, or keep it away entirely.  We want to do this for you, Jesus.”  Well, here’s a picture of four of us huddled on top of a picnic table in the pavilion. The white in the background is. . . .HAIL!  I was smiling in this picture but I was not happy!  I was really disappointed.  God, why is this happening?  This is a worship night for you.  I kept hoping that if the hail finished we could still salvage the night.

The hail lasted about ten minutes and the rain started slowing down.  I ran across the way to the amphitheater where the band was setting up.  I saw puddles everywhere on the grass.  I got up on the stage and it was like a lake.  The sound equipment was all being put away; it was soaking wet.  {Thankfully the equipment wasn’t ruined.} The band was disheveled and disappointed.  They said, “Luke, we tried.  We’re really disappointed about what happened, but let’s just pick up the pieces and we’ll come back another time.”

Sometimes we get disappointed in our life.  There are storms that come.  I was proud of Molly and Kevin who were working with the Young Adults.  They suggested we come back to the church and have a worship night anyway.  It was a great night, but it wasn’t the same.  I wonder if sometimes you feel disappointed and if storms happen to you.  I was disappointed by the work that got washed away that night.

We all face storms in our life.  There’s people in this room whose storm is a relationship that ended.  Maybe it was a dating relationship.  Maybe it was an engagement or even a marriage.  When that relationship ended, it caused destruction, pain, hurt, and disappointment.  I know there’s people in this room that had careers, jobs, ministries or vocations that came to an end.  There was disappointment, hurt, pain, and change of expectation.  Maybe you got a phone call recently that changed your life, that caused disappointment or pain.  Maybe it had to do with your health or someone you loved, their health.  That pain is real.  Storms come and we can’t avoid them because they are part of our life.  The question isn’t how you can avoid the storm, but how do we get through those storms?

This summer we’ve been going through a series called The Sermon on the Mount: The Art of Human Flourishing.  Jesus’s sermon is recorded in Matthew, chapters 5 through 7.  It’s considered the greatest sermon ever.  I’ve enjoyed that we’ve taken the summer to go through each text of the sermon.  It’s been real challenging.  Some people think Jesus doesn’t really expect us to do those things.  Then why did he preach it?

Last week we heard about the narrow or wide gates.  We heard about true or false prophets.  Jesus is leading up to his conclusion in chapter 7 with two choices.  Now we’re at the end and we’re probably wondering the same thing the crowd was wondering — how is Jesus going to end? How is he going to finish his sermon?  Jesus finishes his sermon by sharing a story about two builders and they each made a choice.  Before we jump into the Scriptures, let’s pray and commit this to God.

Dear Lord, we thank you that we have your words, your Scripture.  God, we ask that your word would speak into each of our lives.  God, would you anoint this time and let your Spirit fill this place.  Teach us, each, what you have for us today.  We pray this in your name.  Amen.

If you have your Bible, I invite you to open it to Matthew 7: 24-25.  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.  We see that Jesus is speaking about a house.  This house survived the storm.  During the storm, the questions isn’t is the rain going to stop or what’s going to happen? but is the rain and the storm going to destroy this house?  Is the house that I built going to survive?  Is it going to endure?  Is it going to last?  Did you know that each of us are building a life?  Jesus talks about a storm against a house, but let’s look at the storm against our life, because each of us is building a life.  Building a life is a process and it’s ongoing.  It takes time.  We don’t get up here one day and say, “I’m done.  My house is ready.”  It’s a process.  I think we all want to build a life that lasts through a storm, that endures, that survives, because the reality is the storms come.  Today, Jesus wants us to understand how to build a life that survives that storm, because the storms come.  So, you might be asking the question:  What materials do we need to build a life that survives the storm?  There’s two things we’re going to look at from Jesus’s word.  I love the way that Jesus wants us to build a beautiful life, a life that flourishes.  Let’s dive into what that looks like.

In Matthew 7: 21, just a little bit before this, we’re going to read what Jesus said:  Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  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, your evildoers!”    This is harsh!  These people were doing things for Jesus; they were doing INCREDIBLE things for Jesus, but they were deceived.  They were deceived because they thought they knew Jesus and this was what Jesus wanted.  We can deceive ourselves into thinking we are Kingdom people doing things that Jesus wants, because of the gifts that we have, the gifts that we perform, the gifts that we’ve used.  But Jesus doesn’t know these people; there’s an absence of relationship.  They weren’t doing the Father’s will.  We know the Father’s will is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, all your strength.  AND to love your neighbor as yourself.  Doing God’s will is loving God and loving others.  John 17:3 says—Now this is eternal life; that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent.    When Jesus becomes our greatest treasure, you don’t have to worry about losing that treasure.  Jesus is eternal life and he invites us to be in relationship with him.

So, what’s the first material we’re going to need?  The first material we need for building a life is a relationship with Jesus, not performance for Jesus.  These people were saying all these things I did in your name:  I prophesied.  I drove out demons.  I performed many miracles.  Those seem like good things, but they didn’t do it in relationship with Jesus.  Recently, our worship pastor, Aaron Bjorklund, said, “You know it isn’t good if Jesus extends his hand to you and has to say, ‘Hi, I’m Jesus.  What’s your name? It’s nice to meet you….finally.'”  That’s not good.  If Jesus is saying that to you, that means you’re not in relationship with Jesus.

There’s a difference between knowing about Jesus and knowing him personally.  If I know someone personally, I don’t know just things about them, but I know them well.  There’s a guy that probably most of you know, but not know personally, just like me.  I don’t know Peyton Manning personally, but I know a lot about Peyton Manning.  I can tell you things about Peyton Manning statistics–the different games he had, comebacks, Super Bowls.  But if Peyton Manning came up to me, he would probably extend his hand to me and say, “Hi, I’m Peyton Manning.  What’s your name?  It’s nice to meet you finally.”  He doesn’t know me.  I know a lot about him, but he doesn’t know me.  The same is true with our relationship with Jesus.  Our relationship with Jesus should be personal and intimate, life giving.  Jesus wants us to be in that close relationship with him.

How does being in a relationship with Jesus help us weather the storm?  Well, during a storm. . . .when I was little I was afraid of storms and I would run to where my parents were.  Were my parents going to stop the storm?  No.  My parents couldn’t control anything about the storm, but they gave me comfort and peace and safety and relationship.  Jesus does more than that.  Jesus CAN stop the storm, but he gives us comfort and safety and peace during the storm.

As parents, we provide things for our kids.  We provide things they need and sometimes things they just want but don’t really need.  We buy things, we help them, but if that’s all we ever did—just give them stuff, provided stuff for them—it would be kind of sad.  There wouldn’t be much of a relationship.  I’ll buy you these nice things and you can have fun with them for a little bit. . . . but that’s not a relationship.  Relationship looks like doing things with your kids, spending time together, making memories, going to their games, their activities, their performances, playing with them.  It’s being involved.  That’s a relationship.  It’s not just here’s some stuff.  Relationships are like that because presence is greater than presents.  We want to be near Jesus and Jesus wants us to be near him.  We don’t just want the stuff.

So maybe you don’t prophesy, maybe you don’t perform miracles, but maybe you give to the poor, maybe you come to church, maybe you look like you have it all together.  But without a relationship with Jesus, Jesus says, “I don’t know you!  Get away from me, you evildoer.”  Jesus doesn’t want our performance, he wants us to be in relationship with him.  That’s the first material that will help us survive the storm.

So what other material do we need?  Let’s go back to the story of the two builders.  Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus says this:  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.”   Jesus lays out very clearly that there’s two options.  The first man He called wise because he built his house on the rock.  In the storm, the house survived and it lasted.  It stood firm.  The second man He called a foolish man.  The foolish man built his house on the sand, and during the storm, that house was destroyed.

The second material we need in building a life that lasts the storm, that survives, endures the storm is to practice Jesus’s words, not to overlook Jesus’s words, not to ignore Jesus’s words, not to forget Jesus’s words.  Jesus wants us to practice his words.  In verse 24 it says: Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice….  When you put Jesus’s words into practice that is what Jesus is talking about in building a life that survives, that lasts through the storm.  It’s a process.  He doesn’t say, “Put these words of mine into completion and do it 100% well all the time.”  No!  He says practice it.  Start getting into the habit and the rhythms of what Jesus is talking about in the Sermon on the Mount.  He doesn’t expect perfection from us.

Building a life is a process, but so is building a house.  I remember when I was 14, my dad was building a house for our family and he involved me in the process.  I remember the first part of the house. . . .we had the guys come in and dig down and get the basement ready.  I remember thinking, “Why is this taking so long to get the basement ready?”  We don’t even see the basement!  From the outside you can see the first floor, the second floor, and the roof, but you don’t see the basement.  The basement doesn’t seem very important, but that foundation is what’s going to decide the fate of that house standing or being destroyed.

The same is true in our lives.  We need the foundation to be on the rock.  But what is Jesus talking about when he says the rock?  Several different things may come to mind when we think of ‘rock.’  The object (rock).  A kind of music.  There’s the actor.  Jesus used the Greek word petra.  Some of the older people in the church will think, “Petra!  Petra means rock, of course, because of the 80s rock band!”  It’s the same word Jesus used in Matthew 16:10 when Jesus was talking to Simon and He said, “I’m going to call you Petros.  I’m going to call you Peter, because on this rock I will build my church.”

Jesus is talking about a rock, but what would others think it meant?  They would think about a firm foundation that was steady, that was unchanging.  They also used rocks in war for protection, for weapons, for safety. . . .like a Mighty Fortress that we sang about today.  Rocks were large and unmovable.  They can give life. . . .in their crops, the limestone would erode and become nutrients so it’s life giving.  Throughout the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms, we here that ‘God is our rock.’  What did that mean?  Jesus is saying that the rock is a firm foundation.  God is our protector and our defender.  God is steady and unchanging.  He’s large and unmovable.  And he’s life giving.  Oh and this just in. . . .Jesus was preaching from a rock.  He was preaching the Sermon on the Mount on a rock.

Jesus then talks about the sand.  Where would you rather build your house. . . .on the rock or on the sand?  I think Jesus is trying to ask a silly question, because I think everyone would say, “That’s really foolish!  That’s silly!”  Why would anyone build a house on the sand?  Yeah, I think that was Jesus’s point.  When you think of sand, when they think of sand…   Some people try to build houses on the sand.  Those are called sandcastles.  Sandcastles are not suppose to endure storms or the waves.  You don’t see sandcastles last.  Sand is clearly not a firm foundation.  The way of Jesus IS a firm foundation.  We have a coffee shop named “Solid Grounds.”  Firm foundation, right?  We want to remember what that is.  On Christ the solid rock I stand // All other ground is sinking sand.  Our firm foundation is Jesus.

In this Sermon on the Mount, Jesus wants us to practice his words.  He wants us to practice reconciliation instead of anger.  He wants us to choose honesty instead of hiding.  He wants us to chose humility rather than retaliation.  He wants us to choose love and pray for our enemies.  He wants us to practice forgiving instead of being bitter.  He wants us to live out our faith for God instead of for the praise of others.  He wants us to choose the kingdom of God over money.  He’d rather we trust in Him rather than worry.  He wants us to choose to be a life-giving presence rather than condemning.  And He wants us to practice doing unto others as we would have them do unto us.

What would it look like if we did this?  If we practiced doing these things, practiced doing the words of Jesus?  The body of South Fellowship Church. . . .that would be an incredible thing if we practiced putting Jesus’s words into action.  James 1:22-24 says:   Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  We need to DO what Jesus says throughout the Scriptures. . . .do the will of your heavenly Father, not just listen and forget or overlook.

In the Ethos series sermon Ryan preached a few months ago about practice, he showed us twelve spiritual practices about how we can try to align ourselves with the grace and love God is pouring out.  Not trying to earn God’s favor or grace, but trying to practice posturing ourselves in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus.  They are:  Silence and solitude.  Simplicity.  Fasting.  Sabbath.  Secrecy.  Submission.  Bible reading and memorization.  Worship.  Prayer.  Soul friendships.  Personal reflection.  Service.  If that’s something you would like to continue looking at to live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus, not trying to earn God’s favor, here’s some ways that you can do that.  Maybe there’s some areas in your life, in my life, that I’m not putting into practice Jesus’s words, I would invite you this week, and even today, to think about what that is.  Is there things in Jesus’s words that I’m overlooking, I’m ignoring, I’m not wanting to put into practice because it’s too hard?  Confess those things to Jesus and start putting them into practice.

Now, Jesus lands the plane next.  Puts a nice bow on the sermon and finishes it nicely.  Oh no, wait, He didn’t!  Jesus says have a relationship with me, build your life on the rock, put my words into practice and. . . .mic drop, out!  Jesus doesn’t say all the details we’d like him to say, like what does it mean, what does it look like.  The people were so surprised!  Let’s look at what happens in the last two verses of this chapter (28-29).  When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.   The crowd was so amazed, dumbfounded, like wow! did Jesus just really say all of those things and just end the sermon like that?  I guess he did!  What are we suppose to do about that?  It’s over and now we have to make a choice.  I love how Eugene Peterson paraphrased that verse:   They had never heard teaching like this.  It was apparent that he was living everything he was saying — quite a contrast to their religious teachers!  Jesus was living it out and these people were like wow, all these things that Jesus just said?  Jesus is serious.  He didn’t say here’s some things that you should do if you can figure it out.  Jesus wants us to put these things into practice.

So what did they decide?  What did the crowd do?  We find out in the next verse (8:1) — When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him.   They chose.  It seemed like most of them chose to follow in the way of Jesus.  That reminds me of another time when the crowds left Jesus and he turns to his disciples and said, “Are you going to leave too?”  Peter looks at Jesus and says, “Where else would go, only you have the words of eternal life.”  Jesus’s life exemplified the person we want to follow.  And interestingly enough, in chapter 8, the disciples follow Him into a storm.

They had a choice.  And I have a choice.  And you have a choice.  {Look up at me for a second.} We ALL have a choice.  Will we choose to build our lives on the rock and to trust the Maker of the heavens and the earth?  Trust the Shepherd and His relationship?  I want you to feel invited to be in an intimate relationship with Jesus, because that’s what Jesus desires.  Jesus is both our Savior and our Rabbi.  The invitation of Jesus is to participate with Him. . . .in relationship, in putting His words into practice, which leads to obedience in the way of Jesus, with the heart of Jesus.  I know it might be easier, temporarily, to say no, no, I can’t do that, but the reality is the storms of life are going to come.  When the storms come, are you going to last through the storms or are you going to be destroyed?

There was a man, in 1871, that lost his business in the great Chicago fire.  In the same year, he and his wife had a son die of pneumonia.  Two years later, his family was traveling across the Atlantic ocean, but right before the ship left, he remembered something and said, “I’ll meet up with you on the other side.  I’ll take another boat.”  That ship didn’t make it.  That ship went down.  His wife somehow survived, but the four daughters were lost.  As Horatio Spafford traveled on a boat to meet his grieving wife, he penned these lyrics:  When peace like a river, attendeth my way // When sorrows like sea billows roll // Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say // It is well, it is well, with my soul.   What did he build his life on?  What was his anchor in the tragedies of his life?  What did he do?  He knew his Shepherd.  Not just about God, but he had an intimate relationship with Jesus.  He built his life on the rock and he put Jesus’s words into practice.  This is a choice we all have.  What will you choose?

Lord Jesus, I thank you for your words.  I thank you for your challenge.  God, I ask that you would be showing us and inviting us into a closer and intimate relationship with you.  Jesus, I thank you for all the words that you taught in this sermon.  I ask you to show us, each, how we can start putting into practice your words and your truth.  God, I thank you that even during the storms you are with us and we can trust wholly in you.  We thank you, in Jesus’s name.  Amen.