July 7th, 2024 | Series: Sermon on the Mount – Part 3

This sermon highlights the importance of building one’s life on the solid foundation of Jesus’ teachings, emphasizing practical obedience and the transformative journey of sanctification.
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Good morning, South. My name is Jessica Rust. I’m the Director of Pastoral Care here at South Fellowship. So that means I get to help respond to the needs of our church and our outside community, whatever those might look like. And today, it actually means that I get to continue our Sermon on the Mount series and it means we get to talk about actually the last passage in the Sermon on the Mount and my daughter was sick last week and I managed to not get her sickness until about 8 45 this morning so we’ll see if I like have a voice at the end of this so good thing we have a microphone today But Alex is going to go over the Sermon on the Mount as a whole more in depth next week, but even keeping that in mind, I think we can’t really talk about the end of this sermon without going back to where we covered in the beginning.

So throughout this whole series, all three parts of it, we’ve talked about the idea of the Sermon on the Mount as Jesus’s guide to kingdom flourishing. He starts in Matthew 5 with the Beatitudes, those famous lines, blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the meek, blessed are those who mourn. He covers marriage and divorce. He covers anger. He covers money and giving, he covers prayer and fasting, trusting God, having a right heart before God.

And as he winds down his sermon, he has these three parallel images of gates and fruit, as we heard this morning in the bumper video and as Alex talked about last week. And he ends with one final parable about houses. Summarizing everything he wants us to know. In one snappy, quick, concrete image that kind of pulls it all together.

So with that in mind, let’s read Matthew 7, 24 through 27 again. 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 has 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 sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. Before we go any farther this morning, let’s take a moment to pray.

Lord Jesus. Show us what it means not just to be hearers of your word, but doers. Teach us this morning what it means to walk in your way. This is such a vivid story to end the whole Sermon on the Mount. Two builders, one wise, one foolish, two houses, one built on rock, one built on sand. A storm comes against both of them, one stays firm, and one falls with a great crash.

Sermon It’s catchy, you can picture what’s happening as you hear the story, and it might even be such a good story that we get caught up in it, and then the crash at the end comes as a surprise. But to Jesus original audience, to the people who were sitting there on the mountainside listening to him share this story for the first time, it wouldn’t actually have been that surprising.

It would have been conventional wisdom. See, all throughout the wilderness area of Judea are these big valleys and ravines called wadis that were dry for most of the year, but then in the rainy season they could fill with a flood at pretty much any time. And if you’re going to be there in that area, and especially if you’re going to build anything there, You needed to be prepared, and you were probably going to build any kind of structure up high on the rock to keep yourself safe from any kind of flood or storm that might come through at any given time.

So to Jesus original audience, no one was sitting there hearing rock, sand, wise, foolish, and taking it as some sort of serious comparison of building materials. To them, He said, house built on sand, foolish builder. They knew exactly what the outcome was going to be. They could anticipate that’s what was happening.

And I don’t think you have to be someone who has a lot of construction experience, Middle East or otherwise, to know that a firm foundation, a solid foundation on a house is essential. When my husband and I were looking for a home to buy, Our Realtor would send us the listings, we’d look it up on the map and see, is this spot where we want to be on our side of town?

Is this what we’re hoping for? And sometimes, without even looking at a picture of the house, and just looking at the map, my husband would take a glance and say, oh, we can’t live there. That house is built on a bentonite deposit. We don’t want to deal with that. Or, oh, we can’t live there. That house is built on a floodplain.

We don’t want to deal with that. And as house after house and option after option got vetoed for structural concerns, I got a little frustrated because you know what? Most houses in this area are built on bentonite deposits or floodplains, it turns out, but he was looking out for us. He wanted us to have a home with a firm foundation, a solid foundation to build our lives on.

You see this play out in the news sometimes. These are homes in the community of Rancho Palos Verdes in Southern California. It is a beautiful stretch of coastline with multi million dollar houses, resorts, golf courses, and a portion of these beautiful buildings were built in a landslide zone.

So as the ground has shifted over time, these homeowners for these multi million dollar structures have run into more and more problems. According to the LA Times, in 2023 over the last 15 years, sections of land have moved anywhere from 100 to 225 feet horizontally and dropped 8 to 18 feet vertically.

And because of this landslide zone, The city of Rancho Palos Verdes has made a good decision not to allow any more building in the landslide area, but it means that if you’re an existing homeowner, you can’t bring anyone in to shore up your foundation or rebuild any of the damage, and they’re stuck trying to DIY their own solutions to keep their homes at least moderately structurally sound.

A firm foundation for a house is essential, and Jesus seems to be saying, that we need a firm foundation as well. And he’s actually pretty clear with how we build it. Therefore, Anyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice. It’s not enough, Jesus is saying, just to hear Jesus words. He didn’t spend all the time it took to give this sermon on this mountainside, laying this out just because he likes to talk or he didn’t have anything better to do.

He probably had some better stuff to do if he really chose to do it. The expectation for his followers, if you choose to follow Jesus. is obedience, because both builders in this story represent those who hear Jesus words. Not one person who heard and one person who never heard. Both heard, but only one is wise.

Thank you, Alex. Alex agrees with me. Both heard, only one is wise. Both heard, Only one has the right foundation. And to be clear, the foundation isn’t the putting it into practice part. Our foundation isn’t obedience, and it’s not effort. Our foundation is Jesus and His way. Either you build on it, or you don’t.

We’re being asked to choose, in this parable, at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, which builder are you going to be? How are you going to build your foundation? Who are you going to build it on? Eugene Peterson, in his message Paraphrase, puts it a little bit more bluntly. These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living.

They are foundational words. Words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you’re like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit, but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you’re like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach.

When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed, like house of cards. When I first read this message paraphrase, it was so compelling, because it’s so clear, but it also felt so harsh, like uncomfortably harsh. And I think that’s because he used the word stupid, and that, in our culture, is a harsh word, and not one that you usually say in church, in a sermon.

But, I realized that the issue wasn’t so much that stupid is too harsh of a word, The issue might be that foolish, in our culture, has lost so much of the edge that it would have had in the first century when Jesus was telling this parable. Foolish, in biblical times, all throughout scripture, Didn’t just mean like a mistake or something embarrassing that we’ll get another chance to reconcile.

That’s how we usually tend to use foolish. To us foolish is something along the lines of you ate half a bag of Cheetos before you went to bed and now you can’t sleep and you have heartburn, right? That’s foolish. Foolish is those people who ended up in America’s Funniest Home Videos, or on a YouTube fail compilation, like that kind of thing.

To Jesus, and all throughout scripture, someone who is foolish is someone who has chosen their own way. A way maybe of instant gratification, maybe of injustice, maybe just making the decision that whatever God has to say, doesn’t have anything to do with how I live my life. I bet he doesn’t even care, and continuing on from there.

Not just a one time mistake, but a devastating decision. For them, and sometimes for people around them. And even more so when we realize that when Jesus talks about a storm hitting both of these houses in this parable, he’s not just referring to the storms and trials of life. That fits? There’s truth in it if we apply it that way, but Jesus, when he talks about a storm, is actually talking about final judgment.

He’s talking about eternity here. To ignore Jesus, to build a house on a sandy foundation, hear Jesus words, and do nothing with them, is a devastating decision. An eternal foundation is built not just on hearing him, Or even agreeing with him, but living a life that reflects his heart and his commands as a demonstration of where our heart belongs.

Jesus is telling us that the only wise way and the only ultimately secure way is the Jesus way and the Jesus way has to be lived. We have to choose. What are we going to do? How are we going to live? And more than that, at its core, the choice we’re being asked to make is how are we going to respond to Jesus?

And by the way we live, who are we saying that Jesus is? Putting Jesus words into practice isn’t just about how. Scott McKnight, the biblical scholar and author, lays it out this way. So we dare not reduce Christology, which is our view of Jesus, to Essex. Instead, The sermon calls us to lift ethics into Christology. What echoes down through the corridors of history when the sermon is read or preached is that Jesus, in the closing passage, clasped those very words to himself.

Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine to respond to the sermon is not to respond to an ethical vision. To respond is to respond. The proper response is to declare who he is by the way we live. Let’s frame it another way. In Matthew 16, Jesus is walking with his disciples in the region of Caesarea Philippi, and he asked them a key question.

Who do people say the Son of Man, referring to Jesus, is? They replied, some say it’s John the Baptist, others say Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. But what about you? He asked. Who do you say I am? Simon Peter answered, You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. That’s it. That’s the choice we’re being asked to make.

Who do we say that Jesus is? Do we say that He is the Messiah, the Lord of our life? Do we say that we want to live and walk in His way for His kingdom because we believe He’s who He said He was and did what He said He did? Do we want to build our lives on Him as our foundation and walk in His way?

And if we answer yes, why don’t we do it? One answer might be a little bit of a theological Debate that we have we’ve been talking about so much about doing and putting into practice But aren’t we saved by grace through faith alone? If we’re not saved by how good we are as people or how well we live out the Sermon on the Mount, if we can’t earn God’s favor by what we do, then what does it matter?

If I’ve said yes to Jesus, why does it matter how I’m living my life? Why does it matter if I put his words into practice or not? I’d say, yes, we are saved by grace through faith alone, but we’re talking here about a justification, a difference between justification and sanctification. Justification is about our standing with God.

We’ve all sinned. We all live in a fallen world. Through Christ and His death and resurrection, we now have a pathway to be forgiven by God, made right with Him, and live in relationship with Him once again. When we think of Romans 10, 9 through 10, what Paul says there, if you declare with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, And believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

For it’s with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it’s with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. That’s justification. It’s by grace alone, through faith alone, one time for all. Without justification, we continue to be trapped in our own sin and our own existential separation from God.

In the hymn In Can It Be, Charles Wesley has a beautiful picture of the freedom that justification offers us. Long may imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature’s night, thine eye diffused a quickening ray. I awoke, the dungeon flamed with light. My chains fell off, my heart was free. I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Justification is a beautiful and essential piece of the gospel that we can and should praise God for. But let me ask you, when Jesus holds out his hand and says, come follow me, come be my disciple, come walk in my way, is justification. The only thing that he’s inviting us to. No, that’s a piece of it. But more than just knowing what our eternal status is, he’s inviting us into relationship.

He’s inviting us into a lifelong process of growth and transformation more and more into his image and who he would have us be. That’s sanctification. Justification is the once for all, one time event. Sanctification is the ongoing, whole life, whole journey process of growth more and more into Christ likeness, becoming more of who God intended us to be.

Choosing Jesus as your foundation is the start. Choosing to follow him as your savior is your start. Sanctification, the putting it into practice piece. is the rest of the journey, and there’s both in the Christian life. You don’t have to choose one or choose the other. He invites us into this glorious, beautiful journey together with Him that we get to participate in, not being left forever as we were, just sure that in the end it’ll all work out okay, but being present with Him now through His Holy Spirit, seeing growth and transformation now through His Holy Spirit.

That’s so much better than just a one time decision. I signed my name on the check, and now I’m done. That’s a lifetime of difference that we might have before us.

Even if we work through the theological piece, though, we have some practical arguments that we might make. Because, as humans, We are really good at finding reasons why we can’t do what someone is asking us to do, whether it’s Jesus asking us or really pretty much anything else. Oh and his commentary on Matthew 1 through 12, D.

L. Bruner lists out like the six most frequent and influential ways of interpreting the Sermon on the Mount throughout the centuries since people started actually interpreting the Sermon on the Mount. They’re, number one, just do it. Jesus said it. He meant it. Go live it. Number two, it’s just for a few.

The idea that Jesus really didn’t mean for everyone to do this, it was only like for the extra credit holy people, like the monks and the nuns and Mother Teresa who need to worry about it, and everyone else is off the hook. Number three, it’s just to convict. This idea is that Jesus actually didn’t mean for us to try.

He wanted to set out this impossible standard that no one can live up to. So we’d realize our own insufficiency and our own need for the Lord and be driven to him on his mercy. Number four, it’s just your attitude. This one’s that the practical doesn’t really work out so much, but the principles are great.

So if you aim for them with your heart, like that’s enough. Number five, it’s just not yet. This idea is that we don’t need to worry about it now. This is more of a picture of when Jesus returns, what will be living with him like in eternity, it’ll be great then, now don’t bother. Number six, it’s just for then.

Jesus meant it for his earliest followers. He’s taking a little bit longer to come back than he thought he was going to. It’s not practical to keep trying to work this out. Six major interpretive approaches to the Sermon on the Mount. Five out of the six can be summarized along the lines of the Sermon on the Mount is a beautiful kingdom vision that Jesus really was serious about some other people trying, but not me.

Five out of six of these are trying to find loopholes for why no one actually has to do this, right? But the question we should be asking as we approach the Sermon on the Mount is not, do I actually have to do this? It’s not how much of this do I have to do to be okay and get a passing grade with God So that I’m good enough Christian in his eyes and the question we should be asking isn’t but can I wait To try some of the anger parts and the loving your enemy parts Until after the election because that other candidate is a real piece of work But I’ll try really hard on November 6 to start like flipping this out.

The question that we should be asking Is Do I want to live in his way with his heart? Do I want transformation and sanctification? Do I believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Lord of all, and that his way is right? And I’m willing to put this into practice even when it’s difficult, even when it might look ridiculous to someone else, even if it feels like I might be losing something.

Because it’s not just about the how, it’s about who. But, if we are going to put his words into practice, at some point we need to think about how, at least just a little bit. And that brings us to another practical objection. How do we do this? If you read the Sermon on the Mount all at once, if you listen to someone read it all together, or even if you just zoom in on those passages that feel the hardest to you, it can feel overwhelming and impossible to actually live.

And we tend to approach it I don’t know about you, I’ll speak for myself, I tend to approach it when I see any kind of command of, okay, I need to be totally perfect at this from now until forever, just like a New Year’s resolution. And I don’t know about you, but my New Year’s resolutions, especially with their, if they’re things like exercise that I don’t do naturally, I don’t keep very long.

And the same thing happens to us when we view Jesus’s words, especially in a big chunk that seems overwhelming, like the Sermon on the Mount. But here’s the thing, we already talked about how sanctification isn’t instant transformation. We don’t pray a prayer to follow Jesus and all of a sudden we’re just right on everything all the time.

That would be great. And honestly, if that was how God really wanted us to function, he probably could have set it up to be that way, right? But instead, we’ve talked about how Jesus invites us on this lifelong journey to follow Jesus. of growth and learning and coming to understand more and more who he is in everyday moments.

And we struggle with that because it seems like we have grace that we’re so thankful for, but as soon as we hear the word obedience or have some kind of idea that God expects something from us, it’s like we feel like we have to pick one or the other. We either lean towards grace or towards obedience and forget that they’re not mutually exclusive.

And there might be a lot of reasons for that. Maybe you have some church hurt and baggage that shaped your understanding of how God expects us to obey his commands. Maybe there’s some family stuff that you’ve experienced in your past that gives you this lens. Maybe it’s just an understanding that we don’t have a whole lot of patience when people don’t follow what we’ve asked them to do.

So how could God have grace and patience with us when we don’t obey? But we have to hold both in tension. It’s grace and an expectation that we’re at least going to try what he’s asked us to do. Not necessarily New Year’s style. Jesus is now our personal trainer. But in the everyday moments, everyday instances that we have in front of us. Just to give you a practical illustration of trying to live this out. A couple weeks ago, my husband, who’s not super thrilled that I’m telling this story, but I did ask his permission. My husband and I received an email that made us pretty angry. Not irritated or inconvenienced or frustrated or those nice little placeholder words we used instead of anger.

Like I was more furiously angry as a result of this email interaction that I’d been in. I wanted to burn bridges. I wanted an apology. I wanted this person to know all of the list of things that I had perceived them as doing wrong over the years that I could happily have spelled out in an instant. And I remembered that I was preaching a sermon on putting into practice the Sermon on the Mount, and Jesus said some stuff about anger and turning the other cheek, even when you feel misrepresented and misunderstood.

And the other person was not responding in a Jesus honoring way. And I told Elijah, before we respond to this email, we need to go read Matthew 5 and remind ourselves of what Jesus says before we try to respond. And he rolled his eyes at me a little bit, but we did it. And we waited until we could respond in the email in a way that was a little bit more reflective of Jesus way and his heart.

Was it absolutely perfect? Probably not. Was it the way that you would reflect Jesus in an email if Jesus himself had written the email? Probably not. I’m not going to claim it was a 100 percent perfect Jesus y email. But it was better. It was more in line with his heart than it would have been if I had fired off a response as soon as that initial email came through.

And that’s part of what it means. To put Jesus’s word into practice. Not that you’re gonna get it perfect every time, but then in every opportunity you have, you make an attempt. And if you don’t do it right, we try again, and try again. Putting Jesus words into practice, living with his way in his heart and how we allow him to shape our hearts and our view of others and of God is an opportunity we have with every decision that we make.

And we also forget it’s not just about us trying, it’s about Jesus walking with us. God is the one who shapes our hearts, who grows us, who sanctifies us through his Holy Spirit. Jesus doesn’t lay out this way and say, walk in it, hopefully I’ll see you at the other side if you make it. Best of luck. He says, here’s the way.

I’m walking with you. Grace and obedience are both part of what it means to be Jesus’s kingdom people. A kingdom. that’s characterized by mercy and justice and love. A kingdom where we get to live as the people that we were always meant to be. Where we get to see people for who they were meant to be.

Where we get to see God for who he is and always has been. The invitation to practice Jesus words isn’t just an impossible standard that we’re expected to fail at as an object lesson. It’s an invitation to put the kingdom into practice. It’s to allow him to shape our hearts. It’s an invitation to say to Jesus, You are my king, and I will walk in your way. I will walk in your way.

When I get in my car and drive down Broadway, as one of us should be prepared to have to practice today, it’ll happen to someone, someone’s going to cut us off. It’s an invitation when a text message pops up in your phone from a family member who is really difficult to love right now. It’s an invitation when you walk into work.

It’s an invitation when you get on your bus. It’s an invitation when you walk into your apartment and have to say hello to a roommate who is driving you nuts. Everyday moments, everyday opportunities to put his kingdom into practice. So it’s not just about how, it’s about who. Who is Jesus? Who am I going to be as a result of who Jesus is?

And who are we going to be as a community? If we as South Fellowship exist to help people live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus, how are we as a church body going to reflect the Jesus way? How are we going to show mercy? How are we going to show up for others? How are we going to be a light of the world?

How are we going to do that at the food bank? Right out there in our lobby after the service? How are we going to do that? Celebrate recovery on Tuesdays or in student ministry on Wednesdays or all the other times that you guys meet throughout the week. How are we going to do that in kids church? How are we going to do that in our Bible studies and our small groups?

We are each called to choose our foundations, but that doesn’t mean we have to build a lonely house out on a solitary hill. The Christian life is done together. Encouraging each other, and spurring each other on, and all together, showing a bigger picture of the kingdom. As we go out into the week, trying to live out the Sermon on the Mount, I would encourage you to start with prayer.

Ask God to show you the ways that He’s growing with you, the opportunities that He’s putting before you to live this out. Those opportunities that I have might be different. than what God is asking of you this week and the way that He’s asking you to live this out. And we have a prayer team who’s going to be up here on either side of the stage and back in our prayer space at the very end of the service.

They would love to pray with you and ask some of those questions with you. As we finish our series on the Sermon on the Mount next week, keep reading the Sermon on the Mount or another part of Jesus’s Gospels. Maybe try to memorize it. It’s really hard to put someone’s words into practice if you can’t really remember what they said.

So keep it in front of you, even when we as a church move on to a new series. Keep reading, keep listening, keep seeking. Finally, if our response to the Sermon on the Mount is shaped by who we say Jesus is, we do need to answer that question. Who do you say Jesus is? In just a minute, we’re going to move into a practice of communion together as a community.

The way we do it here, we have tables up front and in the back. Come up when you’re ready, take the elements, take them back to your seat. But the practice of communion in and of itself is a declaration of who we say Jesus is. A declaration that he is Messiah, Lord, and Savior. that he died and rose so that we might live in relationship with God once again. Today, either before you come take the elements or once you bring them back to your seat, I would really encourage you, take time. Don’t worry about anyone else in line, be courteous, but don’t worry about how fast they’re going or what we’re doing up on stage. Just take the time. To answer that question, who do you say Jesus is?

Maybe you answered that question years and years ago, but you’ve been living as if your foundation is built on someone or something else since then, in big ways or small. Maybe you need to have a conversation with Him about that. Maybe you’ve never thought about Jesus way and who you think He is. Maybe you want to start walking that way.

You want to start following Him today. He is just waiting to walk with you. Talk with Him about that. If you believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, you will be saved. Today might be the day to make that decision. When are in our time of communion now? Come up, take the elements when you’re ready.

Eat the bread when you’re ready. We’ll all take the cup together at the end. But take your time. Answer your question first.