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Between a Rock and the Shifting Sands
(Matthew 7:24-27)
The title our message is . . . .
I am in the midst of writing sermons on the parables of Jesus.
This is the sixth one I have prepared, the other five being on the Pharisee and the publican going to the temple to pray, the Prodigal Son, the parable of the sower, the Good Samaritan, and the parable of the unforgiving servant.
The nature of parables is such that often you get some pretty fanciful interpretations out of them, and so I have chosen the ones that I believe God wanted me to preach based on those parables that are pretty straightforward, those that lend themselves to fairly easy handling.
That is not to say that there is not great depth to these parables I have preached on, you could preach several sermons on The Good Samaritan alone.
And this parable of two foundations is one that is rich in its depth, but is readily accessible to all of us.
All of us, of course, can understand the great power and force of water.
Especially water rushing through narrow canyons during a flood.
We’re all familiar with the tragedy that torrential rains and rising water can cause.
One such tragedy occurred back in the mid-1970's in the Big Thompson Canyon flood in Colorado.
A typically dry gulch, in which many people camped, was swollen with days of heavy rains until a flash flood swept campers, tents, and gear to their deaths and destruction.
Dozens were killed.
It was a very unusual accident, much more freakish than the flooding of homes of people who build on the flood plain of a large river.
This was an area that for almost every day out of the year, and at times for years on end, was perfectly safe.
But then came unusual weather, a flash flood, and mass destruction.
And in Israel, there is a place that is similar to that canyon in Colorado in that it almost never rains there.
In 1986 Israel had had one of its driest years on record, and all of its famous bodies of water were remarkably low.
There was just a mere trickle of a stream at the bottom of the steep canyon that forms the Wadi Kelt, and in places one could jump across it.
But in 1992 the previous winter rains had been considerably better than average, and the place where back in 1986 one could leap across the without getting wet was now a raging torrent.
But on one side of steep canyon walls was a 1500 hundred year old Greek Orthodox monastery actually built into the very rock itself.
And for 1500 years this structure remained unaffected by drought or by flood.
The foundation of the campers in Colorado was not good, right?
This church in Israel, of course, was built on a solid foundation, though.
Now obviously, what we will want to do in this study is determine what Jesus is talking about in this parable.
And some of it will be self-evident.
But to have a true understanding of what Jesus is saying here I believe we will have to back up and see the context in which the parable was taught.
One such context is one of false and true teachers, another is about false professions of faith.
But the primary context of this parable is that it comes at the very end of the great Sermon on the Mount.
This parable then is the climax of all the wonderful teaching of that wonderful Sermon by our Lord.
A Rock of Wisdom, Sand of Foolishness (Mat.
(1 To truly get the feel for this simple, yet profound parable, we could go back to chapter five and read the entire Sermon on the Mount, I suppose.
I don’t think that will be necessary; most of us are fairly familiar with its contents.
But I do think it might be helpful if we go back and read selected passages from this seminal sermon on the kingdom of God.
First, the Beatitudes, Mat.
As we go forward from this beginning we find Jesus warning us about the difficulty in actually living this type of life, of finding our way.
We can all see from the Beatitudes how incredibly difficult it is to live out such a life, right?
And then next Jesus goes on to warn us about the perils of false teaching.
Jesus is saying here that the Christian life is in no way lived divorced from a radical change of direction in that life.
Too often, we preach the absolutely true and glorious doctrine of the free grace of God, yet neglect to teach the equally true doctrine that salvation changes lives. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (KJV)
17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Jesus says here that teachers who do not teach the full counsel of God are like ravening wolves, preying on the unsuspecting, and leading many astray to their own damnation.
Because next, Jesus warns us against false professions of faith.
And all of these verses bring us up to this parable of the two foundations.
What is the foundation we are building our lives on?
That is what we want to talk about today.
Look back to 7:24-27.
(2 We aren’t going to have a long discussion on the Beatitudes, but I think that maybe we need to look at the values here as the values that must be present when the Kingdom of God arrives in its fullness.
These kingdom values which set forth the perfect standard of righteousness demanded by the law, will be the governing virtues in eternity.
But here’s the deal: God expects us to obey them right now.
He expects His children to exhibit these characteristics in this life as well as the next.
We don’t, though, do we?
Because we are saved by grace and not by works of any kind, even these wonderful good works Jesus enumerated there in the Sermon on the Mount, we wrongly assume that they are just there in Scripture to tell us how wonderful things will be in heaven.
(3 And partly that is true, isn’t it?
Because that is the way life will be like in the Kingdom of Heaven, right?
But these are virtues that, try as we might, we can never fully attain, and must drive us to the cross, right?
And these are also virtues that should be the driving motivation of our lives in the here and now, too.
Simply because we are saved by grace through faith does not exempt us from behaving in a Christlike manner, does it?
There are consequences for all behavior, whether you have had your sins forgiven or whether you have not yet come to Christ in repentance.
And some of these consequences can cause us needless pain in our personal lives.
Pain that could have been avoided if we had only ordered our lives more closely around Christian virtues.
(4 You know, there is a fascinating passage over in in 2 Peter that illustrates for us what can happen to folks who refuse to build their lives on the right foundation.
Turn with me to 2 Peter 2:3-9.
It can often be a dangerous thing to take a passage of Scripture and just lightly skim the surface of it, but this passage in 2 Peter is so powerful in revealing to us what can happen to believers as they live out their lives ignoring the clear teaching for godly living.
And it’s not that we are so much living our lives like pagans, but that we are not living our lives according to the great Christian virtues imparted to us by the Holy Spirit.
Look at your Bibles, 2 Peter 1:3-9.
(5 Some boys, and some girls as well, are given by God amazing athletic abibilties, aren’t they?
They can throw, and run, and catch, and jump, and swim, and hit with a skill that the rest of us can never approach.
But even if God has given them all the talent in the world for playing, if they do not take that talent and work hard and practice, dedicating that talent to the singular goal of excellence, they will fall short of the promise of their talent, right?
Christians have been given the honoring of actually partaking of the divine nature, haven’t we?
We have the power of the living God within us to do what?
Be kings, lording it over everyone around us with our God-given power?
To just kind of laze around, twiddling our thumbs, doing nothing for the Lord.
Of course not!
We have the power to live our lives on the sure foundation of Jesus Christ, and from that foundation add to our faith the very characteristics of our Savior Himself.
(6 And then Peter tells us that if all these virtues abound in us we will grow in our knowledge of Christ, and if we grow in our knowledge of Him, we will inevitably grow in our ability to live like Jesus did, too.
And have great fruit in our lives!
But if not? Look at verse nine again.
(7 We don’t practice these virtues in order to be saved, but, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we pursue them so that our knowledge of Jesus Christ will increase, and if our knowledge of the Lord increases, we will have certainty about our salvation.
And if we are certain of the power of Christ within us, God will bless us with fruit.
But if we are struggling with the reality of our salvation we won’t be of much use to the Kingdom, will we?
Our foundation might be sure if it is built upon Christ, but we have allowed shifting sands to enter in.
Go back to Matthew with me and look at let’s look at our parable again.
(8 You see, here is the deal.
As believers–no really, as people who have at some point in the past made professions of faith–we must make sure our salvation.
If there has never been a time in your life, from when you walked an aisle, recited a prayer, and went under the water–never been a time when you valued, not just grace and mercy and forgiveness, but actually valued the Christian way of life, then may I submit two things to you: You are either in desperate need of rededicating your life so that you might be of some use to the Lord., or secondly, the truth is, more than likely, if you have never valued the virtues found in the Sermon on the Mount, or the passage we just read in 2 Peter, you’re probably unsaved, and tragically on your way to Christless eternity in a devil’s hell.
(9 We need to ask ourselves some hard questions from time to time, don’t we?
My great fear in my own Christian walk is that I become too familiar with it.
That my walk becomes something like an old pair of house shoes, something I am so comfortable and familiar with that the life I am supposed to be living for the Lord, along with those comfortable shoes, becomes unnoticed, taken for granted.
(10 We must, all Christians must, come to the Word of God, the Gospels, all of Scripture, with a fresh eye, willing to look deeply into our own hearts and examine our lives, whether we even be in the faith, and whether, if we are, we are living the faith instead of just going through the motions.
Because listen to me, nowhere in this Bible is it ever stated by God that because we are saved by grace through faith, we can live our lives any way we choose.
That because God is merciful and ever ready to forgive we can go out and sin with abandon.
James wrote this: James 2:17-18 (KJV)
17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alonec.
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