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Sermon on the Mount  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The way of Jesus is the way of thriving.

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INTRODUCTION

Reading of Text

“Please stand with me for the reading of the holy Scripture.”
“Please stand with me for the reading of the holy Scripture.”
“Please stand with me for the reading of Scripture.”
Matthew 7:24–29 NIV
“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 sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” 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.
Pray

Context of Passage

We have reached the climax or epilogue of Jesus’ sermon on the mount, which technically started back in Verse 21. He is wrapping everything up and tying it off with a challenging bow.
Over the last several months we have seen how the Sermon on the Mount is full of instructions, which challenge the wisdom of how we instinctively build our lives, and one thing is certain: it is difficult and countercultural to do what Jesus says.

The Sermon on the Mount is full of instructions that challenge the wisdom of how we have been building our lives, even to this very day. It is indeed difficult and strongly countercultural to do what Jesus says—to go to the sister or brother who has something against us, before the start of worship, and seek reconciliation, prioritizing this above everything else in church that day. To show generosity to those who hate us, speak ill of us, and have acted to our harm. To willingly offer to someone more than he or she is suing us for. To invest our money not with a view to our indulgence beyond the needful in the present, or to our secure enjoyment of the future, but with a view to relieving the necessity of our neighbor in the present. To turn our powers of diagnosis ever toward ourselves and the distance we still have to travel toward Christlikeness, before presuming to diagnose a sister or brother.

So much within us screams that were we to live like this, we’d be ruined, we’d be fools, but Jesus says that to live like this is like building a house upon a foundation of bedrock. To live like this now is to lay a strong foundation for the future.

The Sermon on the Mount is full of instructions that challenge the wisdom of how we have been building our lives, even to this very day. It is indeed difficult and strongly countercultural to do what Jesus says—to go to the sister or brother who has something against us, before the start of worship, and seek reconciliation, prioritizing this above everything else in church that day. To show generosity to those who hate us, speak ill of us, and have acted to our harm. To willingly offer to someone more than he or she is suing us for. To invest our money not with a view to our indulgence beyond the needful in the present, or to our secure enjoyment of the future, but with a view to relieving the necessity of our neighbor in the present. To turn our powers of diagnosis ever toward ourselves and the distance we still have to travel toward Christlikeness, before presuming to diagnose a sister or brother.
To go to the sister or brother who has something against us and seek reconciliation.
To show generosity to those who hate us, speak ill of us, and have acted to our harm.
To willingly offer to someone more than he or she is suing us for.
To invest our money not with a view to our indulgence beyond the needful in the present, or to our secure enjoyment of the future, but with a view to relieving the necessity of our neighbor in the present.
To turn our powers of diagnosis ever toward ourselves and the distance we still have to travel toward Christlikeness, before presuming to diagnose a sister or brother.
So much within us screams, “Were we to live like this, we’d be ruined, we’d be fools!”, but Jesus says just the opposite - that to live like this is akin to building a house upon a foundation of bedrock. To live like this now is to lay a strong foundation for the future.
Peter J. Leithart et al., Reflecting on the Word: Video Devotionals (Year A), Logos Mobile Education (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), .
Peter J. Leithart et al., Reflecting on the Word: Video Devotionals (Year A), Logos Mobile Education (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), .
Peter J. Leithart et al., Reflecting on the Word: Video Devotionals (Year A), Logos Mobile Education (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), .
In this text, Jesus is following up a series of very clear and shocking contrasting images to illustrate two types of responses to Him and His gospel of the Kingdom of God:
Narrow gate vs. wide gate
Good tree vs. bad tree
Sincere discipleship vs. insincere discipleship
And now we have one final contrasting image to show the severity of the consequences of our response to everything Jesus has just called His disciples to live out.
This is not a complicated image which needs a lot of explaining. Jesus is saying to everyone who hears these words, which now includes all of us, there is a wise response and there is a foolish response.
Now, normally I try to resist or challenge binary thinking and overly simplistic reductions, but this is truly one option versus another. And Jesus illustrates these two options with two images:
A wise man who builds his house on the rock (and).
The foolish man who builds his house on sand.
Both houses are hit by a violent storm leaving one standing while the other falls to ruin. Again, not a lot hidden in this picture Jesus is painting for us.
It is important to note that if the last few sermons, and now these words of Jesus, stir up something uncomfortable inside of you, like they do me, this is a good thing - it is the point. It is exactly what Jesus is trying to do. Jesus is getting real real with His disciples and saying “Listening, hearing, and even right thinking are not enough for entrance to the Kingdom of God” (v. 21).
The message is clear:
To stop short of practicing the way of Jesus is to stop short of the Kingdom of God.
So, while last week we looked at two contrasting types of doing, this week we are looking at doing in contrast to not doing and the results of both.
So, I want to spend our time on two things:
DOING VS. NOT DOING
THRIVING VS. CRASHING

DOING VS. NOT DOING

Scot McKnight writes:
Sermon on the Mount The Aim of the Sermon Is Doing

The fundamental aim of the Sermon is to present Jesus and his kingdom vision for his kingdom people, and the only acceptable response to this Sermon is to embrace him, to accept the challenge; that means to do what he says.

The fundamental aim of the Sermon [on the Mount] is to present Jesus and his kingdom vision for his kingdom people, and the only acceptable response to this Sermon is to embrace him, to accept the challenge; that means to do what he says.
Scot McKnight, Sermon on the Mount, ed. Tremper Longman III and Scot McKnight, The Story of God Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013), 276.
In verses 13–27 the word “do” or “practice” appears 10 times!
7:17 (2x), 18 (2x), 19, 21, 22 (negatively), 23 (synonym), 24, 26.
Jesus wants his disciples to know what he expected of his own and to get them to do what he said.
This can be a really tough thing to reconcile for those of us who hold dear the wonderful doctrine that is justification by faith.
I mean, how do we sort this out with Scripture like these:
(NIV)
Romans 3:28 NIV
For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.
Scot McKnight, Sermon on the Mount, ed. Tremper Longman III and Scot McKnight, The Story of God Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013), 276.
Galatians 2:16 NIV
know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.
28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.
I can tell you this, we are not being forced to choose between team Jesus and team Paul. Paul fully understood Jesus’ teaching when writing his letters. We are not meant to read these words of Jesus as him promoting works over faith, but rather as him promoting what it means to have faith in Jesus: to live as he instructs, to do what he says to do. This is faith. This is doing. Not two mutually exclusive options to choose between.
One of the unintended consequences of how we have elevated the doctrine of justification by faith is believing our works, or doing, do not matter - to God, to the world, and to ourselves.
Martin Luther, a champion for gospel orthodoxy and arguably the central figure in our modern elevation of justification by faith, says this well when commentating on the Sermon on the Mount:
“The doctrine [in the Sermon on the Mount] is a good and a precious thing, but it is not being preached for the sake of being heard but for the sake of action and its application to life.”
Luther, Sermon on the Mount, 281.

Luther, Sermon on the Mount, 281.

Luther, Sermon on the Mount, 281.
Even Martin Luther believed our works, our doing, mattered.
Scot McKnight, Sermon on the Mount, ed. Tremper Longman III and Scot McKnight, The Story of God Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013).
So, Jesus is not just listing off a Buzzfeed article with “25 Pro Tips for Life.” He is showing us what life in the Kingdom of God looks like. This is how citizens of the Kingdom live, and they live like this because of their faith in Jesus.
To do so is to choose wisdom over foolishness - to resist the temptation to embrace shallow, one-dimensional thinking. It was Socrates’ who said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”, and Jesus’ words challenge us to examine the dimensions and depths of inviting the Kingdom into our lives through listening and doing the whole of Jesus’ teaching.
If we truly believe Jesus’ words, we will become Jesus’ words in our daily lives.
…and how good is this in a world where foolishness seems to have no end? When the world sees us, it has the opportunity to see the very presence of the Kingdom of God! It is an entirely different kind of apologetic to those who so desperately need God’s presence.
Peter J. Leithart et al., Reflecting on the Word: Video Devotionals (Year A), Logos Mobile Education (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), .
Now, if any of this is starting to sound familiar, it is because this is what God has been about all along.
Go read and ; .
God called and blessed Abraham not because of anything Abraham had done, but by grace (the author of Hebrews would later identify this as faith). God does this so Abraham and his descendents would go and bless the nations and in doing so bring God’s presence to a world who so desperately needs him.
God then calls his people to a way of life through another man on a mount named Moses.
Go read and ; .
God then gives us wisdom literature like this:
Psalm 1 NIV
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.
Proverbs 10:25 NIV
When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever.
Jesus says the one who hears his words and then practice them is wise, like a man who builds his house on the rock, and when the storms come and violently beat against the house, it stands firm because of the foundation.
Understanding this gives a whole new, and proper meaning, to Jesus’ words when he said, “I didn’t come to abolish the law of Moses, I came to fulfill them!”, does it not?
Again, Paul understood this non-mutually exclusive truth that both faith and works matter - to God, to the world, and to ourselves.
Romans 3:31 NLT
Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.
To have faith is to do the will of the Father, which is to practice the way of Jesus. To do so is to choose wisdom over foolishness - to resist the temptation to embrace shallow, one-dimensional thinking.
It was Socrates’ who said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”, and Jesus’ words challenge us to examine the dimensions and depths of inviting the Kingdom into our lives through listening and doing the whole of Jesus’ teaching.
If we truly believe Jesus’ words, we will become Jesus’ words in our daily lives.
…and how good is this in a world where foolishness seems to have no end? When the world sees us, it has the opportunity to see the very presence of the Kingdom of God! It is an entirely different kind of apologetic to those who so desperately need God’s presence.
Richard William Harbart says this:
our embracing of these beliefs becomes the profound change mechanism that allows the person and community an opportunity to step into the new mind-set and lifestyle the kingdom offers. As they are embraced, these beliefs become the great “game changer,” as the empty tomb was to Mary and the disciples when they thought everything was lost and gone. They become the spiritual mind expander and “eyeopener” whereby the human focus on selfish needs is put aside. Once done, the altruistic principles of the kingdom of God and Jesus’ teachings become the new center of thought and action, not only for the Christian community, but for the whole human family.
“Our embracing of these beliefs becomes the profound change mechanism that allows the person and community an opportunity to step into the new mind-set and lifestyle the kingdom offers. As they are embraced, these beliefs become the great “game changer,” as the empty tomb was to Mary and the disciples when they thought everything was lost and gone. They become the spiritual mind expander and “eyeopener” whereby the human focus on selfish needs is put aside. Once done, the altruistic principles of the kingdom of God and Jesus’ teachings become the new center of thought and action, not only for the Christian community, but for the whole human family.”
Richard William Harbart, “Homiletical Perspective on ,” in Feasting on the Gospels: Matthew, Chapters 1–28, ed. Cynthia A. Jarvis and E. Elizabeth Johnson, First Edition., vol. 1, A Feasting on the Word Commentary (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2013), 181.
We are always building, with each action and each omission of action, each decision to invest in a particular direction, each response to a new situation. Jesus challenges us to carefully examine the foundation we are building on.

THRIVING VS. CRASHING

While Jesus seems to have the day of judgement in view here (vv. 21-23), that setting is not emphasized, meaning the every day building of our lives is at stake as well. What we build on and how we build has both eternal and present consequence.
In Jesus’ illustration he doesn’t give us the impression at all that these two houses are much different. Don’t you find that interesting? I do! He could have painted a picture of this beautiful strong house against some rickety shanty, or he could have gotten clever and painted a picture of a beautiful house hiding rotted-out framing against an uglier house hiding a strong frame. He doesn’t do this. The impression is both of these houses are being built and are similar except for one thing, the foundation.
It is possible to go through this life building our lives in a way that has the appearance of one thing, but hides the foundation of another.
Again, this should stir us up. This should grab our attention. This should give cause for examination.
Because according to the story, storms are a reality. Storms that are significant enough to test the integrity of the foundation of the home.
For most of my life I believed that thriving in life was everything going well - growing, multiplying, flourishing! Where I was mistaken was also believing it was the absence of storms, or maybe more-so the minimizing of storms. However, 43 years of life have shown me that Jesus’ words here are accurate and true. I absolutely believe living out the Kingdom ethic we see in the Sermon on the Mount leads to health, and growth, and flourishing (i.e., thriving), but I also believe it builds our life on a foundation that weathers the great storms of life.
Share our season of storms
- Elder issue right before sabbatical
- Shortly after sabbatical, Marty being hospitalized, and taking more time off
- Coming back from time off to the church facing financial problems resulting in us resigning, or being laid off (depending on whether you ask me or Melissa)
- Moving back to Arizona, living with my parents, no job or insurance, and Marty ends up being hospitalized again, which racked up about $40,000 in hospital bills
This season redefined thriving for me, for my family. Because, you see what didn’t happen during that season is us crashing down. Don’t get me wrong, it was hard - extremely hard, but the house stood. Some paint chipped and we lost some shingles, or in my case they started turning grey, but the house stood.
It wasn’t just faith in the storm that kept the house from crashing down, but the faith building long before the storm ever came. Because it was dark during those storms. Hearing and practicing looked very different in the middle of those storms, but the foundation stayed the same. Jesus stayed the same.
For us, what faith and thriving looked like in the middle of those storms, was hope.
I had a lot of people give a lot of advice during those storms, but only one stands out to me still to this day. It was a text from a friend early one morning with the words, “Don’t give up hope.”

CONCLUSION

Reading of Text (again)

Matthew 7:24–29 NIV
“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 sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” 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.

Homework

I want everyone to go home today and take 5 to 10 minutes to read the Sermon on the Mount in its entirety. Read , , in light of Jesus’ closing words, and before you do so, take a minute first to go to God in prayer and ask for transformation. Don’t complicate it. Just submit yourself to God, ask for transformation, and read the Sermon on the Mount. I have faith God will do something amazing in that space, in his presence.
Pray

Communion

1 Corinthians 11:23–26 NIV
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
1 corinthians 11
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