Parable 3 Wise and Foolish Builders

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Matthew 7:21-27(ESV)21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ 24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

 

Luke 6:46-49(ESV)46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? 47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

 

Here Jesus is speaking of the absolute necessity of building your life on the right kind of foundation. Because the foundation is what holds everything up, it’s what holds everything together. No matter what quality of materials you use; no matter how carefully you nail the frame together; no matter how skilled your builders may be – if the foundation isn’t solid and stable, your “house” will lack integrity. Over time, cracks will develop in the walls. The windows will stick. The roof will leak. And sooner or later, the storms of life will bring it crashing down, and everything you’ve worked so hard to build will be lost.

 

First of all, note that there are only two builders in the story; only two alternatives. When it comes to matters of ultimate truth, there are really only two options. You’re either trusting in Christ, obeying his commands, following his example – or you’re not. One way leads to life and salvation, the other leads to death and eternal destruction. Now, the world would have you believe otherwise. The world has you believing in yourself, or mix biblical wisdom and worldly wisdom by taking verses out of context and applying them to areas they are not meant to be applied.

 

According to the Bible, there aren’t many ways, according to the Bible, there are only two ways – Christ and everything else. One way leads to life; the other leads to death.

 

Matthew 7:13-14(ESV)13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

 

Now, the foolish man who built his house on the sand did a lot of things right. * Foolish man. This is the word moros, from which we get “moron.” The root meaning is deficiency and was used of one who is stupid and foolish. The foolish man took short cuts because he wanted quick results and instant gratification. The foolish live just for the moment and give no thought to the future. Do we know people like that? They get their paycheck and blow it all in a couple days on things that don’t matter then they are broke till next paycheck, or how about people who do foolish things, make foolish decisions that affect their future but in the moment they do not care about consequences. Anyone who has ever been arrested falls in that category. This foolish builder was evidently diligent, energetic, a hard worker. It’s no easy thing to put up a house, and especially not in those days, with no power tools or Lowes. He had to carry stone, and cut wood, and form bricks out of clay. It probably took him weeks and months of backbreaking labor. He didn’t quit; he persevered until the structure was complete. Yet in the end, all his hard work was for nothing.

We often confuse activity with godliness. We assume that if someone is hard-working and energetic, they must be a sincere Christian. They must be close to God if they’re doing so much “for the Lord”. And so we make ministry involvement the mark of spirituality. But that’s a mistake. Because all of that activity and service may be built upon a foundation of sand. They could be doing all those things for all the wrong reasons. It may not be obvious what those reasons are; just as it may not be obvious what kind of foundation is underneath a house. But in the end, the true motivation will become apparent. Friends, even the most costly service and the most strenuous labors won’t save you, if the foundational motivation is something other than love.

 

What other kinds of motivations are there? Well, pride for one. Some people like to be involved in church activities because of the praise and recognition they receive. They like being in the spotlight, they like having people thank them and affirm their gifts. And this motivation is certainly not restricted to laypeople; it includes pastors as well. How do you recognize it? A key sign that someone is acting out of pride is what happens if their service isn’t noticed, or if (God forbid) they even get criticized. What happens then? They become angry; they sulk; they threaten to quit, they leave the church. Now, if their motivation had truly been to serve, they might be disappointed to learn that their attempts had been unsuccessful. But this kind of bitter, resentful reaction reveals that it was really all about them from the beginning, and not about the people they were supposedly serving.

Or how about self-righteousness as a motive for activity? This one can produce some really exemplary workers, the kind of people who get recognized at banquets and who receive lots of plaques and awards. But their primary reason for doing all the things they do may be to earn God’s favor; demonstrating that they deserve God’s blessings. Their intention may be to prove – to God, to themselves, and to others – that they are at least a little bit better than the people around them. How can you identify this motivation, this faulty foundation? Listen. If you hear yourself complaining about how much you’re doing versus how little the others are doing, then self-righteousness is somewhere in the mix. If that’s the case, then repent. Confess your sin. Acknowledge that you can do nothing to make yourself acceptable to God. And place your trust and confidence entirely in Him, rather than in your own works or merit.

Now, please understand that I’m not criticizing active service; far from it. But I am suggesting that you examine your heart. Ask yourself; what is my foundational motivation in doing this? Is it a sincere love for Christ and for his people? Or is it something else? Pride, or self-righteousness, or habit, or duty, or people-pleasing? If your answer is “something else,” then you may be in danger of a spiritual collapse.

The point I’m making is not limited to church life. It applies to any kind of work and any kind of service – a wife serving her husband, or parents serving their children. It applies to serving family members, or friends, or neighbors. In fact, it applies to everything we do, from the time we get up in the morning to the time we lay down at night. Are you working, and are you serving, out of love? Just being active and diligent and hard-working isn’t enough. The foundation of it all, the motivation for it all, has to be a love for Christ; or else in God’s eyes it has no value. Let me put it another way. Anything you or I do which cannot be traced back to our love for Christ will eventually become worthless. That’s the only motivation that pleases God; the only one that has value.

 

Consider also that the house built on the sand was a good, solid structure; one that to all appearances was well-built. It didn’t fall down right away. It wasn’t obviously defective. The house on the sand may have started to shift even before the storm came. Gaps likely appeared in the walls as the timbers slipped. The owner probably patched up the holes, only to see more appear, even as the outside appeared to be fine. That’s a picture of people who don’t have a solid foundation. Great gaps and hideous holes show up and sometimes are immediately filled with that which doesn’t satisfy but gives the appearance that all is well.As long as the weather was good, it was perfectly adequate. It wasn’t until the heavy rains came that it collapsed. I highlight this because, just as this man’s diligence was no sign he was doing the right thing, neither was the apparent success of his labors. Yes, he managed to accomplish something which looked impressive and worthwhile. But that didn’t mean that he was in good shape. Because underneath it all, just waiting for the first real storm, was that hidden weakness, that lack of a true foundation.

It is possible to accomplish a great deal in this world without Christ. You can build a business or a career. You can make money. You can have a reasonably good marriage. You can develop a wide circle of friends. You can do good things – give money to charity, coach Little League, adopt a third-world baby, do service work for the poor, volunteer at a retirement home. You can have a good time and enjoy life. You can do many big, important, impressive, and admirable things. But eventually, a storm will come along which will bring it all tumbling down.

Now, for some people, the storm never comes along in this life. They have little or no interest in religion, and yet they do things, and have things, and enjoy life and go to their grave happy. For them, the storm that finally destroys everything, including their souls, will be the final judgement. And when that judgment comes, the only thing that will matter to me or you is whether we are in Christ, whether by faith we have received his forgiveness and his righteousness. If you have, then you will stand. If not, then you’ll be swept away into everlasting punishment and destruction, along with everything you’ve ever done. Listen to these passages which describe that terrible day:

 

Isaiah 28:15-19(HCSB)15  For you said, “We have cut a deal with Death, and we have made an agreement with Sheol; when the overwhelming scourge passes through, it will not touch us, because we have made falsehood our refuge and have hidden behind treachery.” 16  Therefore the Lord God said: “Look, I have laid a stone in Zion,

a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; the one who believes will be unshakable. 17  And I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the mason’s level.” Hail will sweep away the false refuge, and water will flood your hiding place. 18 Your deal with Death will be dissolved, and your agreement with Sheol will not last. When the overwhelming scourge passes through, you will be trampled. 19 Every time it passes through, it will carry you away; it will pass through every morning— every day and every night. Only terror will cause you to understand the message.

 

Matthew 25:31-34(HCSB) 31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

 

I know that most of you consider yourselves to be in Christ, and are expecting that the final judgement will leave you standing. I hope you’re right. But I have a warning. Don’t be complacent. Don’t assume that just because you claim Christ as your Lord, you will be received by him on that day. What matters is whether your life demonstrates that a genuine change of heart has taken place, a change that comes through faith in Christ, and is accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit. Not measly lip service. Remember that earlier in today’s passage, we heard Christ speak these chilling words:

 

Matthew 7:21-23(ESV) 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

 

Look at the wise builder. The main difference between the two builders is that only one took the time and determination to dig down to the solid rock and anchor his home to that which would not move. And all this work was out of sight. The foundation of his house was fastened to the rock while the foundation of the other house settled on sand. The nature of sand is to be shifting, sliding and sinking while a rock is stationary, strong and secure.

Luke 6:46-49(ESV)46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? 47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

 

Paul echoes the importance of building on Jesus as the cornerstone and a firm foundation in: Ephesians 2:18-22(ESV)18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

 

The contrast is brought out more strongly in Luke 6:48(ESV)48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. The word for rock here is “petra,” which is not used for a stone or even a big boulder but for a large expanse of bedrock which is solid, stable and immovable. The Rock is Christ and the sand is self. We see this in 1 Corinthians 3:11(ESV)“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Many of us know the song that goes like this: “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

All this work was out of sight. The “work” you put into your relationship with the Lord is mostly unseen. Brothers and Sisters if the only time you read your bible, worship and pray is when or if you come to church you are building on a slippery foundation.

 

Observe also that the same storm hits both houses. No individual is immune from adversity. Jesus said it like this in Matthew 5:45(ESV)45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. There are no storm-free zones where we can avoid weather. Spurgeon writes, “Whether your religion be true or not, it will be tried.” Foundations are usually hidden and are only proved by storms. Storms can serve as wake-up calls, can’t they? Some of you are in church today because some sort of stress has entered your life. Storms also test the faithful to see what we’re really made of.

 

Storms on the outside reveal what’s on the inside. There’s a great shaking coming according to Hebrews 12:26-27(ESV)26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Let’s bring this all together to get at the main point of the parable. Both men had the privilege of hearing the words of Jesus. The only difference between the two men is that while both of the men listened to the words of Jesus, only one lived them out. The wise man heard and heeded the Word of God. Those who practice what Jesus preaches will weather the storms of life.If you want your life to last, then listen to Jesus and live what He says. Proverbs 10:25 (HCSB)25 When the whirlwind passes,the wicked are no more,but the righteous are secure forever.

 

The fact that those who are in Christ will pass through the “final storm” that is his final judgement untouched and unharmed. But these words hold a promise for us in this life as well. If we belong to Christ; if our lives are built upon faith in Him, and obedience to His commands, and fellowship with Him through the Spirit, then there is literally nothing that can separate us from him. The storms of life may rage, we may become frightened and fearful, we may even come close to despair. But no matter what happens, our faith cannot be destroyed; we cannot lose Christ or be lost by Him.

John 10:27-30(ESV)27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

 

Romans 8:31-39(ESV)31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

It says “everyone who hears…and puts them into practice.” This is in the present tense, meaning that we are to continually hear and continually heed. Here’s the literal translation: “and keeps doing them.” Listen to what Jesus said in John 13:17(ESV): “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” Luke 11:28(ESV) echoes the same sentiment: 28 But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” For some of us, we listen a lot but live it very little. What is it that God is calling you to put into practice? In what area do you need to obey Him? Is it in your giving, in your serving, in your loving, in your forgiveness, in your thought life, in your attitudes, or in your behavior?

As churchgoers we’re in danger of doing a lot of listening but not so much living out what we hear. Most of the people listening to Jesus that day would have considered themselves to be His followers. Could it be that some of us are not Christians, even though we think we are?
2 Corinthians 13:5(ESV)5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

Some of us are too soft and too shallow. It’s time to go deep. The main difference between these two men is that one of them took the time to go underground while the other stayed on the surface. You can’t really tell from looking at someone how deep their roots are but you can tell by what happens when horrible things come.

While we don’t talk like this anymore, the words of Puritan Thomas Brooks are penetrating: “Reader, remember this: If thy knowledge do not now affect thy heart, it will at last, with a witness, afflict thy heart.” I like Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase: “But if you use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are 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 a house of cards.”

2 Timothy 2:19(ES)19 But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

 

To the outside world we may seem Christian, even to some of our fellows brothers and sisters in Christ, but what happens when a little storm enters your life? Do you fall apart? or do you stand firm? Every one of us is a builder and our life is like a house. Our lives are made from the same materials as other lives and they are pummeled by the same problems. There are storms of sickness, sin, sorrow, suffering, financial stress, relational conflicts and tornados bearing any of a thousand other names. Some of you will weather these storms because you have wisely built your life on the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

They key thing to remember, when the storms of life threaten – when the sky grows black, and the wind starts to howl, and the rain pours down – the key thing to remember is that it isn’t a matter of us holding on to Christ. It’s not a matter of our strength at all. It’s a matter of Christ holding on to us. And he has promised that he will hold on to us, no matter what happens, both now and throughout eternity.

Which builder are you, the wise or the foolish? Are you building your life on Christ? Is He your foundation? Or are you relying on something else, or someone else, to get you through the storms of life and the judgement to come? If that’s the case, you’re in great danger. I urge you, repent today. Don’t delay any longer. Confess your sins to him in prayer; accept his forgiveness; put your trust and confidence in him for salvation and eternal life. No foundation other than Christ will survive the storms of life and the coming judgement of God.

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