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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:The Wise Man Built His House upon the Rock
Text:Luke 6:46-49 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Obedience
 
Preached:2018
Added:2018-07-22
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 93:1,2,3,4                                                                                      

Ps 32:1,3

Reading – Ezekiel 13:1-16; Matthew 7:21-29

Ps 62:1,3,4,7

Sermon – Luke 6:46-49

Hy 37:1,2

Hy 65:1,4

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ, it seems like every year there’s another massive flood somewhere in this world. Whether along the Gulf of Mexico, in Brazil or India or somewhere else, there have often been terrible deluges destroying buildings and bridges, and drowning many people. For all our advances, mankind can do so little to oppose the immense force of rising and rushing water.

For this reason, Jesus uses it as an image in Luke 6 to warn and encourage. There He calls his listeners to build on the one firm foundation, to ground their lives on his unshakable truth—and to do so, lest the mighty waters of a flood sweep them away. The boys and girls might recognize Jesus’ teaching here in the Bible song called “The Wise Man Built His House upon the Rock.” As the song goes, “The rains came down and the floods came up/ The rains came down and the floods came up/ And the house on the rock stood firm!” It’s an image that we can easily picture, and remember, particularly when there’s another flood in the news.

But what does it really mean, to build on the words of Christ? We don’t seem to be in danger of any major flooding, anytime soon—and actually, we all know that that’s not the main idea of our text. Christ’s bigger concern is that his listeners not only hear, but embrace, and apply his teachings. If we build on Christ’s Word like this, then we’ll stand firm. But if we don’t, we’ll suffer a fate far worse than a loss of material possessions, a fate even worse than drowning.

So our text is an exhortation to faith and obedience, and it’s a vision of the consequences that will follow from building or not building on the words and work of Christ. I preach God’s Word to you from Luke 6:46-49,

The Lord Jesus calls you to build on the foundation of his Word:

  1. the loving Lord and his teaching
  2. the wise builder and his security
  3. the foolish builder and his downfall

 

1) the loving Lord and his teaching: Our text comes as the conclusion to one of Jesus’ sermons, a sermon that he preached during the first year of his ministry. When Jesus delivered this message in Luke 6, we know that there was a big crowd of people around him. Luke tells us in verse 17 that “a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon” had come to hear his teaching and to be healed of their diseases.

This kind of scene was becoming pretty typical of Jesus’ ministry, for there were more and more people who wanted to be near Him. It’s like those scenes today when a president or prime minister will walk among the eager crowds in city streets, shaking hands and saying hello. These people around Jesus did something similar, crying out for the Lord: some pronouncing words of praise, some calling out for healing, others hoping to receive his blessing.

Christ is surrounded by a multitude, but He’s not a headline-seeker. He wants nothing to do with popularity contests, and wants much more than superficial recognition. And that’s how He rebukes the crowds in Luke 6. He asks them, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (v 46).

By this point in his ministry, the people already knew that Christ had some stature and influence. He possessed authority, both as a wise teacher of the law, and as one who could perform stunning miracles. So they gave him some reverence and honour. As He walked past, the crowds would call out “Lord, Lord.” It was a title of some respect, like the students among us will refer to their esteemed teachers as “Sir,” or “Ma’am.” That’s polite, of course, but when we say that, we might not really mean what we say. So for that title, “Lord”—there’s a lot of meaning loaded into that little word.

For Christ says, “If you’re going to call me Lord, then there’s a serious implication for your life. If you will call on my name, then you’ve got to listen to me when I speak, and obey when I direct you.” To call Jesus your “Lord” means not just to respect him for his wisdom, or to recognize that He can help when we’re in trouble. It means to submit to him, to obey his words, to give him your loyalty—not just now, or when it’s convenient, but always.

What many people were doing was hypocritical. They’d praise Jesus loud and long, and they’d talk amongst each other about the impressive things that He did and the clever words He said, but then they’d turn and ignore him. The next day they’d act as if they’d never met him, never even heard the words of his teaching.

Jesus knows that anyone can be impressed by the Word at first hearing. In fact, He knew that the crowds would keep following him, hoping to hear more. That was fine, but again, his listeners have to do more than listen. And more than simply say, “Lord, Lord, that was a great sermon. Very interesting! Never thought about it that way.” No, they must also put these words into practice. For He is the Lord! Christ isn’t just a good teacher, but one who has all authority in heaven and on earth.

Today too, anyone with a pulse can sit in church. We can hear the Word, and we can nod our heads in agreement when the minister speaks, for it all sounds good. We can take notes, follow along carefully. Likewise, during the week we can open the Bible at home and let our eyes linger on the page for a while. And anyone can speak the name of Jesus in prayer, or at school, or at Bible study. But if faith and devotion to Jesus as Lord are real, then there needs to be more. There needs to be a real response.

When we look at the conclusion to another sermon of Jesus, the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, He says a similar thing. Jesus says that at the judgment on the last day, He’ll tell many people plainly, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness!” (7:23). These are some of the most frightening words that Jesus ever said: “I never knew you.” They’re terrifying because they’re pronounced not against pagans or atheists, but against the very people who always professed to be Christians—those who used his name, who prayed and who went to church and who read the Bible every day.

For here’s the critical question: have we done what He said? We can speak fine-sounding Christian words, and demonstrate decent behaviours—everything that you’d expect of a church-goer. But these things can never substitute for true faith and sincere obedience.

When we call on Jesus as Lord, we are placing ourselves before the one who knows every heart and who sees into every life. That’s an intimidating thought, and it’s one that should make us pause: are we really living according to his Word?

Christ begins to describe the way of obedience in Luke 6:47, “Whoever comes to me, and hears my sayings…” Underline that first phrase, and ponder it for a moment: “Whoever comes to me.” What does it mean to come to Christ? This isn’t flocking to him because everyone else is. This isn’t going to church because we always have. This is coming to Christ because we’re hungry for his Word and eager to be in his service. We come to him because we know him as the loving Lord, compassionate toward the lost, gracious toward sinners, wise to instruct. We come to Christ, because we know He can deliver us from all the power and punishment of sin.

And if He’s our Saviour, then He’ll also be our Lord. In the Bible, those two always go together—they’re inseparable, like bread n’ butter, salt n’ pepper: Saviour and Lord. Jesus is a loving Saviour, one who laid down his life to buy us for God. He gave everything, so we could be spared the terrors of hell. But this reality also means that we’ve become his possession, under his authority. Saviour, and Lord—put very simply, now He’s your boss, your master, He’s the one who tells you the better way to live.

If you’re redeemed, you strive to put into practice whatever Jesus commands, and you delight in all his promises. That’s the difference between an empty “Lord, Lord,” and one full of meaning and truth: that we listen to what He says.

Notice how just before our passage, Jesus talks about good trees bearing good fruit. If you’re a good tree, one that is planted by streams of living water and tended by the perfect gardener, then you will bear much fruit. You can’t do otherwise! That same thought carries over into our text. If you’re a humble servant, one redeemed from captivity to Satan and now belonging to Christ, then you’ll be busy doing his will. You can’t do otherwise!

Beloved, what does this look like? There’s endless ways to work this out in our lives, because Jesus’ words are so wide-ranging and comprehensive.

Because you love the Lord, your work ethic at school and the office will be shaped by what Jesus says—you work hard and diligently and to the best of your ability, for him.

Because you want to honour the Lord in his greatness and grace, your reaction to life’s trouble and anxieties will be modified by His promises—you rest in what He has said.

Your home life too, will be structured according to his values: your marriage is about service, your child-rearing is about training in godliness, your monthly budget is about stewarding your gifts well for God. 

Even your leisure activities and your entertainment choices on your digital device will agree with his instruction—you reject what is evil, and cling to what is good, because this is what Jesus said.

It’s not enough to say, “Lord, Lord, I’m a Christian, I was baptized, I go to church.” Those who truly call on the name of Christ will listen to his voice in all things. And for such a person, there will be great blessing.

 

2) the wise builder and his security: As a preacher, Jesus knew that sermons need strong conclusions. He wanted his hearers not only to understand, but to remember this point about hearing and doing. So to end this sermon in Luke 6, He makes a comparison that will cement this lesson into their minds, “Whoever comes to me, and hears my sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock” (vv 47-48).

Like in every land, home builders in Israel had to think ahead. You can’t build a house just anywhere, because there’s not always a reliable base underneath. Only a house whose foundations are well-placed and established can withstand a sudden storm, or a surging flood of waters. Such is the person who builds his life on the Word of Christ. He’s got a proper starting point. He’s got stability and security, for now and always.

With good reason the LORD God is often compared to a rock in the Old Testament. People in the ancient world didn’t know about explosives and powerful drills, so a rock was the perfect image for something permanently solid and lasting. It still is the perfect image, for a rock provides a solid foundation; it’s a place of protection and safety. So David cries out in Psalm 62, “[God] only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God” (vv 6-7).

That’s who God is. And that’s what his Word is like. The gospel doesn’t just sound good. The Bible isn’t just something that provides some Sunday decoration, a bit of dressing up for an otherwise messy life. No, the teachings of the Lord ought to be structural—they should be basic to everything that we do, and all that we are. We can reliably depend on it, always. If Christ gives us a promise—any promise—we know that we can count on it. If He gives us a command, we can know that it’s something we can work with.

Much of what Jesus said during his ministry had a background in the Old Testament. So also this image of building—it comes from Ezekiel, when he spoke against the false prophets of his day. These prophets were lulling the people into a false sense of security by saying that all was well in Israel, even though there was so much sin and rebellion and idolatry. The reality was that God’s judgment was drawing closer, and the Babylonian army was getting bigger. But the people were buying what the false prophets were selling, and they saw no need to repent from sin and amend their lives. 

But Ezekiel tells the truth. He says Israel is simply building a wall and plastering it with untempered mortar. Still today, people cover walls with plaster or stucco, to give it a nice, smooth finish. But you have to do it right: untempered mortar is brittle when it dries, because it hasn’t been properly mixed, or because it’s made of the wrong materials. It might look strong at first, but when any a storm beats against it, the mortar crumbles, and then the stones fall, and great gaps appear. Soon the wall itself will collapse.

We’ll talk about Ezekiel 13 more in a few minutes, but notice what the prophet (and Christ) are saying: the only sure basis for life is God’s unfailing truth! You can listen to the falsehood that the world is announcing, and you can accept messages that don’t challenge you. But Christ brings a call to true repentance, to loving obedience, to humble faith. This is the Word to listen to and build upon.

And the way we build on it, says Christ, is by doing it. Whenever we hear Christ’s words, we must immediately think about how we can put these words into practice. They are action items—each word is a mission, each command an assignment.

For instance, Christ talks about trusting in him, and loving our enemies, and forgiving those who have wronged us, and trusting in the Father’s provision, and being a salt and a light in this world, being gentle, and seeking God and his Kingdom first—when we hear, we must do. We must go home and work with these words, on Monday, and Tuesday, and every day. They must become as the very foundation for our lives!

But building isn’t a quick process. Think of the office towers that take years to build, all the way from the initial concept, right up to opening day. There’s the work of finding the right location. There’s the work of “digging deep,” as Christ says, laying the foundation on the bedrock. Then, layer by layer, the building is put together.

In the same way, we’re not quickly done with his Word. We’re not done, once we’ve shown up for two hours each Sunday. We’re not done, once we’ve been to Bible study or to Catechism class. For as we hear the Word, we need to take note of it: reflecting on it, praying over it. Then we ought to go back to this Word, day after day. This takes diligence. It takes planning and preparation. Beloved, what are you doing to study God’s Word? How does Scripture give structure to your life? Are you casual about it, or are you digging deep, and laying the foundation on the rock?

What we’re involved with in the Word is serious business. You can tell that Jesus knows what life is like, because He says that sooner or later the floodwaters are going to rise. There will be temptations, when Satan sends his best invitations and you feel like throwing everything away to accept. There will be trials, when illnesses aren’t cured, when prayers go unanswered, when loved ones die. There will be persecution too, and conflict, and sadness. Storms and wind and driving rain—not even all at once, yet your life can undergo a steady pounding, year by year, when you wonder how much longer you can last.

But if you stand on the Word of Christ, you will remain! For it’s the Word that gives reminders of God’s mercy. The Word keeps warning against the evil that’s ever-present. The Word keeps teaching what to do in our relationships, our work, our words, and all our choices. The Word gives the precious assurance of God’s steadfast love.

For more than anything, the Word keeps pointing us to our Lord and Saviour. He’s at the heart; He’s at the centre. Through his saving work, Christ has become our Rock. He has become our Cornerstone, the one on which the whole house depends. So depend on him and the Word of his grace. When we fail, when we suffer, when we struggle, when we sin, we can rely on him and always be secure.

 

3) the foolish builder and his downfall: But it can go the other way too, and human lives can end in total disaster. Christ saw this during his ministry, that there were people who responded only in word, not in deed. And whenever Christ’s Word is preached on this earth, there will be such responses, lacking in sincerity.

This is how Jesus describes it, “But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great” (v 49).

In Israel there were many small valleys which in summer time were shady and pleasant places. So when a man went looking for a spot to build his new house, he might come across a location which he thought suitable. But in winter, a rain storm can suddenly fill these valleys and canyons with water. One gully feeds into the next, and in very few minutes there is a flash flood, from which there is little hope of escape. If a person wasn’t careful, he might build his house in exactly the wrong place. Sure, his house would stand for a while, and all looks well. One minute you’re happy and making plans for the future, but the next minute there’s the onrush of flood waters, overwhelming and destroying everything.

Remember the prophecies of Ezekiel, his words against those who deceived the people with their lies. “They have seduced my people, saying, ‘Peace!’ when there is no peace—and one builds a wall, and they plaster it with untempered mortar—say to those who plaster it with untempered mortar, that it will fall. There will be flooding rain, and you, O great hailstones, shall fall; and a stormy wind shall tear it down” (13:10-11).

Believing the lie and ignoring the truth has this terrible result. The result isn’t just a failed wall, or a building that needs to be torn down. Christ is talking about where you build your life. If you build on anything but God’s truth and the gospel of his Son, destruction will come. You might rest on the falsehood of idolatry, depend on flimsy human security, or be devoted to worldly pleasure. You might build your life around the pursuit of your own happiness, or the protection of your own comfort.

It’s fine for a while, and everything can look well, but you’re building on sand—and the storm is coming. As the LORD says through Ezekiel, “I will break down the wall you have plastered with untempered mortar, and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation will be uncovered; it will fall, and you shall be consumed in the midst of it” (v 14). Sooner or later, it’ll come to certain devastation—like so many rickety homes, swept away and destroyed. We can’t escape if we haven’t built on Christ and his Word.

That’s the pressing matter for each of us: Do we read his Word, and do we apply his Word? Do we hear Jesus’ teachings, and practice them? Or are there areas in your life where you are refusing to submit to Christ’s Word? Are there some hidden corners where you’ve heard the Lord but done nothing, heard him yet persisted in sin? If this is the case, then be humbled by this word of Jesus. Cast yourself on his mercy, and go back to Christ, our one foundation. Learn to build on him alone as Saviour and Lord.

These words of Jesus have power—power both to save and destroy. So there must be a faithful response. Whatever you do, don’t do nothing. But be wise and go to Christ, hear his sayings, and do them! For then you shall be like that wise man who built a house, digging down deep and laying his foundation on the rock. And when the floods arise, and the streams beat vehemently, they will not shake you, for you are established on the Rock.  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2018, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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