Parable 7 Ten Virgins

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Matthew 25:1-13(HCSB)“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like 10 virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the groom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were sensible. 3 When the foolish took their lamps, they didn’t take olive oil with them. 4 But the sensible ones took oil in their flasks with their lamps. 5 Since the groom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

6 “In the middle of the night there was a shout: ‘Here’s the groom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 “Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 But the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’

9 “The sensible ones answered, ‘No, there won’t be enough for us and for you. Go instead to those who sell, and buy oil for yourselves.’

10 “When they had gone to buy some, the groom arrived. Then those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut.

11 “Later the rest of the virgins also came and said, ‘Master, master, open up for us!’

12 “But he replied, ‘I assure you: I do not know you!’

13 “Therefore be alert, because you don’t know either the day or the hour.

 

Before we get to the parable, we have to remind ourselves of the context. In response to the disciples’ request to know what sign would signal our Lord’s coming and the end of the age, Jesus spoke to them about the last days. Matthew 24:3(HCSB)3 While He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples approached Him privately and said, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what is the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?”, He made it clear that the end would not come immediately, but only after considerable time and troubles. Our Lord issued various warnings (Matthew 24:4-28), because during these troubled times there would be many interlopers, who would seek to turn men’s attention and affections away from Jesus, the true Messiah.

Jesus immediately separates those who are awaiting his return into two types of individuals: the wise and the foolish. Notice that all of the virgins began their wait with full lamps, which seems to indicate that they all had anticipated that they were going to have to wait in the darkness for some time before the bridegroom came to bring them into the wedding banquet. Moreover, the wise anticipated that they might have to wait far into the night before the bridegroom came, so they brought extra oil in order to keep their lights burning as long as necessary.

We need to rid ourselves of the false conception that the five foolish virgins ran out of oil. The text is clear on this point; the five foolish virgins never brought any oil with them. A footnote in the NET Bible indicates that the word “extra” is not found in the Greek text, but has been supplied because the context implies it. I don’t think so at all. Surely the author is able to clearly supply this detail, so crucial to the interpretation of this parable. But he did not. Why do we wish to think they brought any oil with them? Perhaps it is because we read that the virgins claimed that their lamps were “going out” in verse 8. Would they all have been burning their torches for lighting the inside of the house where they all waited and slept? Would there not be the normal lighting in that place? Why would all five run out at the same time, just when they were preparing their lamps?

I would understand that the lamps were transported without oil in them. If they traveled in the daylight, these lamps would not have been needed on their journey to the wedding place. The reason the wise virgins brought oil was because the oil was carried in flasks and added to the lamps at the time of need. There must have been some residue of oil on the rag or wick of the five empty lamps, which quickly burned out, only moments after being lit. This would explain why all five torches went out at the same time. Perhaps, too, these foolish virgins minimized their foolishness by describing their plight as “running out” so as to look less foolish.

Not only is the text clear about the foolish virgins bringing no oil with them, it is difficult to interpret the parable if, indeed, they did run out of oil. The difference between the five wise virgins and the five foolish virgins is salvation. These five foolish virgins were not once saved, but then “ran out” of salvation. They were lost, and never had it. They never had oil. They were just empty lamps. They looked useful, they seemed to give promise of light, but they never produced it. Let us not seek to supply what the author has purposefully omitted (any oil) in a way that makes us feel better about the story. We are not supposed to feel good about these five foolish, oil-less virgins.

 

Weddings were a time of joyous celebration…The festivities lasted a whole week. Regular duties and religious obligations were dispensed with by law so that the wedding party and all the guests would relish the full delight of the occasion. The high point of the week of wedding celebration was when the bridegroom came to the bride’s house to take her to their new home. Great pageantry and drama had become a part of the tradition surrounding this event. The bride would ask 10 of her friends to be bridesmaids. Their special task was to be part of the processional from her house to her new marriage home. Usually this took place at night, so the major responsibility of the bridesmaids was to carry lamps to light the joyous way of the wedding party. The time when the bridegroom would come was kept secret. It was to be a surprise, and the bride and her bridesmaids were to be waiting expectantly.

Now it is obvious that Jesus in telling this parable and lifting this scene to a higher spiritual reality is casting himself in the role of the bridegroom. He is the one who having with his own blood bought the bride (the purified Church), is preparing to come and bring her to the marriage feast of the Lamb. And equally obvious is the fact that the virgins represent the church on earth (that mixed company of wise and foolish) who is waiting for that momentous event to occur. Thus we, those gathered in this place this morning, you and I, are numbered among the ten. And with the church universal we wait for the cry “Here’s the bridegroom! Come out and meet him!”

On the surface, there appears to be no difference among those ten who wait for the coming of the bridegroom. All are invited members of the wedding party, all have taken their lamps, all are waiting for the shout that announces the coming of the bridegroom. Indeed all ten fall asleep during the delay. What this means for us is that superficially, we can not discern who among us is a wise or a foolish virgin. Who among us will be rewarded and who of us will be excluded. All of us are members of the church. We all take part in its worship, its education, its opportunities. We all at least give lip service to the fact that we look for he coming of Christ again. And like those weary virgins all of us at times fall asleep.

 

The bridegroom is Jesus Christ, and this parable describes His return. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament represent Jesus the Messiah as the bridegroom. The Church is described in Scripture as the bride Ephesians 5:25-32(HCSB)25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. 27 He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless. 28 In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, 30 since we are members of His body.31 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. 32 This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church. for the Messiah.

 

In those days when a man wanted to marry a young woman, he approached her father to ask for her hand in marriage. A brief negotiation followed where the price he was required to pay as compensation for the family’s loss of their daughter was determined. It was called the bride price. If acceptable, and if the daughter agreed to become the man’s wife, they were officially betrothed and he went away to build a home for them next to his father’s house. This could take some time, and the couple rarely met again until the father of the groom pronounced the newly built home fit for habitation. Only then was the date set, and the man given permission by his father to go collect his bride for the wedding.

During this time the young woman was to keep herself pure, watch and wait. She and her bridesmaids were to maintain a constant state of preparedness, since the wedding date would not be known to her until the bridegroom actually appeared. For his part, the groom would usually try to show up unexpectedly to surprise her, carrying her off suddenly “like a thief in the night” when no one would see them. When the bridesmaids discovered the bride had been “snatched away” there would be a great torch-lit procession, announcing to the whole town that the wedding banquet was about to begin.Everyone in the procession was expected to carry his or her own torch. Those without a torch would be assumed to be party crashers or even bandits. The torch was either a lamp with a small oil tank and wick or a stick with a rag soaked in oil on the end of it which would require occasional re-soaking to maintain the flame. This was typically a seven day celebration during which the bride and groom were hidden away in their private rooms while the whole town made merry. The father of the groom picked up the tab for the festivities.

 

The meaning of the parable is that Christ will return at an unknown hour and that His people must be ready. Being ready means preparing for whatever contingency arises in our lives and keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus at all times while we eagerly await His coming. As seen in the fact that all the virgins were sleeping when the call came indicates that it doesn’t matter what we are doing when Christ returns. We may be working, eating, sleeping, or pursuing leisure activities. Whatever it is, we must be doing it in such a way that we don’t have to “make things right” (get more oil) when He comes.

This explains where Jesus says He is going to prepare a place for us. He is the Bridegroom and we “the Church” are His bride. We are Betrothed to Jesus. We are to remain pure while He prepares the place for us.

 

John 14:1-6(HCSB)“Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also. 4 You know the way to where I am going.” 5 “Lord,” Thomas said, “we don’t know where You’re going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me

 

The five virgins who have the extra oil represent the truly born again who are looking with eagerness to the coming of Christ. They have saving faith and have determined that, whatever occurs, be it lengthy time or adverse circumstances, when Jesus returns, they will be looking with eagerness. The five virgins without the oil represent false believers who enjoy the benefits of the Christian community without true love for Christ. They are more concerned about the party than about longing to see the bridegroom. Their hope is that their association with true believers (“give us some of your oil” of verse 8) will bring them into the kingdom at the end. This, of course, is never the case. One person’s faith in Jesus cannot save another. The “Lord, lord” and “I do not know you” of verses 11 and 12 fit very well with Jesus’ condemnation of the false believers of Matthew 7:21-23(ESV)Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

 

May we not be found “going away to make the purchase” (v. 10) when Christ returns. Take the time now to fill your lamp with oil and take extra along. Keep waiting and watching with joy and anticipation.

What follows in the parable are some of the sweetest and some of the saddest words in all of the Bible. Look at verse 10:Matthew 25 10 “When they had gone to buy some, the groom arrived. Then those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut. “…the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet and the door was shut.” How wonderful it will be on that day when Christ comes for his people and ushers them into that glorious feast of heaven. Imagine the joy of sitting down with the saints of God in the presence of Christ the King. Imagine the wonderful reunions that will take place as loved ones separated by death are brought together. I love how J.C. Ryle describes the Christian’s great joy:

They shall be with their Lord, – with him who loved them and gave Himself for them, – with Him who bore them, and carried them through their earthly pilgrimage, – with Him, whom they loved truly and followed faithfully on earth, though with much weakness and many a tear.” Then Ryle goes on to write: “The door shall be shut at last, – shut on pain and sorrow, – shut on an ill-natured and wicked world, – shut on a tempting devil, – shut on all doubts and fears, – shut, to be opened no more.

What a wonderful description! Surely John is right in Revelation when he records these words: “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of Lamb!”

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Parable 6 Wedding Feast

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Matthew 22:2-14(HCSB) 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent out his slaves to summon those invited to the banquet, but they didn’t want to come. 4 Again, he sent out other slaves, and said, ‘Tell those who are invited: Look, I’ve prepared my dinner; my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ 5 “But they paid no attention and went away, one to his own farm, another to his business. 6 And the others seized his slaves, treated them outrageously and killed them. 7 The king was enraged, so he sent out his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned down their city. 8 “Then he told his slaves, ‘The banquet is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 9 Therefore go to where the roads exit the city and invite everyone you find to the banquet.’ 10 So those slaves went out on the roads and gathered everyone they found, both evil and good. The wedding banquet was filled with guests. 11 But when the king came in to view the guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed for a wedding. 12 So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. 13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him up hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

 

The King prepares a great feast for the wedding banquet. He has invited certain people to come. In verses 3- 5 they ignored the messenger,Notice that it is not because the invited guests could not come to the wedding feast, but that they would not come. Everyone had an excuse. How tragic, and how typical of human nature, to be offered the blessings of God and to refuse them because of the draw of dull, boring, worldly things!
a. This speaks of people who just outright refuse the gospel.
b. one went his own way, other religions, his own version of Christianity,etc
c. one to his farm, meaning he was satisfying his flesh by spending his time with the things that sustain his flesh.
d. one to his business, he served his money.

In verse 6 they insulted and killed the messengers
a. those are the ones who do all in their power to shut the mouths of the prophets and the preaching of the gospel. Governments, Atheists,Some scientist,people in outright rebellion to the kingdom,etc

Verse 8 stated they were not worthy of honor. A person was not randomly picked to go to the king’s banquets. A person had to have been known to the king for him to invite them. And those people took the kings request so lackadaisical, like it didn’t mean anything to them. So the king opened the invitation to everyone that would accept it.

Verses 1-8 speak of the nation of Israel, they were God’s chosen people yet they ignored the request to come to the Kingdom through Jesus. So God opens up the invitation to everyone Jew and Gentile. There were only two types of people in the bible Jews and Gentiles. To be a Jew you either:
a. Had to be a descendant of Abraham knowing and can recite your lineage back to him.
b. Be converted by proselyte. Proselyting was the ceremony in converting to Judaism. Judaism is a religion of Works not Faith. One does not have to have faith in God,they just have to follow the laws of the Torah and the feast days and all the other laws the Pharisees put on you.

Verse 9 they bring in everyone they could find good and bad alike. The banquet hall was filled.

Verse 11 when the king came in he noticed that one man was not wearing the wedding garments.

In those times people didn’t have a huge amount of clothes and wardrobes. Mostly because they were simple people houses were small and you had just the bare necessities then. When a wedding was planned the father of the groom was responsible for the banquet or now a days the reception. He would hire a seamstress to fit a person to a garment to enter into the banquet. He would fit the garments to the people as they were entering the banquet.  But this one man snuck pass and was in the banquet without the proper garments. One of the first things the king saw when he entered was this man did not have the proper garments. See many of us want to reap the benefits of the wedding feast without actually changing into the proper garments to enter in. Jesus is the garment to enter into the wedding feast.

The matter of the wedding garment is instructive. It would be a gross insult to the king to refuse to wear the garment provided to the guests. The man who was caught wearing his old clothing learned just how serious an offense it was as he was removed from the celebration. This was Jesus’ way of teaching the inadequacy of self-righteousness. From the very beginning, God has provided a “covering” for our sin. To insist on covering ourselves is to be clothed in “menstrual rags” Isaiah 64:6(LEB)And we all have become like the unclean, and all our deeds of justice like a menstrual cloth, And we all wither like a leaf, and our iniquities take us away like the wind.

After the fall in the garden, Adam and Eve tried to cover their shame, but they found their fig leaves to be barely sufficient. Genesis 3:7(HCSB)7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. When God comes walking in the Garden and they hide themselves. And when God calls out and asks Adam where he’s at, Adam replies:

Genesis 3:10(HCSB)10 And he said, “I heard You[a] in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.”

Think about is, up until that moment they thought their fig leaves were doing the job. But suddenly the leaves left them feeling naked. When did Adam realize his fig leaves weren’t doing the job? (when God came visiting). It was when Adam found himself in God’s presence that he began to realize his man-made coverings weren’t enough.

Nakedness has been the symbol of our sinfulness ever since the garden.

Whenever a person’s sins are discovered, we say they have been exposed.

Jesus warns us not to be found “naked and exposed” when He comes again.

Revelation 16:15(HCSB)15 “Look, I am coming like a thief. The one who is alert and remains clothed so that he may not go around naked and people see his shame is blessed.”

Now, people understand this reality. They know their own nakedness… they know their own sin/shame personally. They’ll be blithely living their lives, working out in the garden, doing something in the house, or working at the shipyard or dock and suddenly it hits them out of the blue: a thought will overwhelm them reminding them of a something they’d said, done or thought in the past that brings a sudden wave of shame over their lives.

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote “All of us have thoughts that would shame Hell.”

People know their own nakedness. They just don’t want you knowing about it… and so they try to cover that nakedness.

There are at least 3 different ways people try to cover their nakedness:

  1. They try comparing their nakedness to someone else’s. “My fig leaves cover up more of my nakedness than yours do!
  2. They’ll try hanging out with all the right people – going to church/ belonging to church. I’ve seen pagans who have become Elders/ Deacons/ Sunday School teachers/ even Preachers. I’ve seen Pagans try to cover their nakedness by all kinds of religious activities and Facebook posts.
  3. Then there are others who will skip the religious clothing and just try to get by on their good deeds.

Now what’s interesting about all these folks is that they do everything they can to avoid getting too close to God. Because once they get too close to God or to other Christians their nakedness becomes obvious. We know we’ve acknowledged our nakedness when we begin to view church as a privilege. When we think of how lucky we are that God not only lets us come to church… but that He lets us LIVE. When we realize how honored we are to have received His love and mercy. And we think about it every day.

THAT’S how we know that we’re not one of those people who try to hide behind their fig leaves… because we realize we don’t have any fig leaves worth anything.

So the 1st intriguing thing about the story of Adam and Eve was that they already had clothes, they just weren’t very good clothes because they were man-made.

The 2nd thing that’s intriguing here is that God supplied their clothing.

He gave them clothing that He had made for them.

God did it all – they did nothing.

All they did was put the clothes on.

 

God took away their handmade clothes and replaced them with skins of (sacrificed) animals. Genesis 3:7(HCSB)7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. Genesis 3:21(HCSB)21 The Lord God made clothing out of skins for Adam and his wife, and He clothed them. Now where would God get garments of skin from? (From an animal) And how do you get skin off an animal? (It’s got to die) When God killed these animals to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness this was the beginning of animal sacrifices. Animal sacrifices were made throughout the Old Testament to pay for sin. The Law of Moses repeatedly taught the Israelites that every sin that they committed was punishable by death. But since everyone sinned, God allowed them to pay for their sins by offering up a sacrifice of a pure and spotless animal in their place.

Hebrews 9:22(HCSB)22 According to the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

God takes away our self righteousness and clothes us with the blood of Jesus. We trust in God’s righteousness, not our own.

Fig leaves wither and must be changed while the animal skins are lasting, therefore if we are relying upon our own righteousness it must be renewed vs having an everlasting covering in the blood of Jesus.

What gets me is none of the other guest of hosts paid any attention to the man. That tells me he wasn’t all that different from the others but when the king entered He noticed.

A lot of us can fake it. Make it look like we have the garment, we can talk christianese, fake the fruits, look like we have it all together, BUT when the king enters he see right through that dung. He asked the man and the man did not even answer. The king then ordered him to be bound then thrown into the outer darkness where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth. Many are called but few are chosen. In other words, many people hear the call of God, but only a few heed it.

Sad reality is that the call goes out to everyone but not everyone will make it to the wedding feast, some will be too tired, too busy, just don’t care. They would rather walk the line and try to sneak in. With that you can fool the other guest but when Jesus comes He will see that you are not wearing the proper garments and you will be bound and thrown into Hell.

Just as the king provided wedding garments for his guests, God provides salvation for mankind. Our wedding garment is the righteousness of Christ, and unless we have it, we will miss the wedding feast. Romans 3:23-24(HCSB)23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 24 They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

This righteousness we receive is imputed righteousness–that is a theological term which means removing the guilt and penalty of sin while at the same time declaring a sinner righteous through Christ’s atoning sacrifice. God legally declares us to be righteous because of Christ’s work on the cross. This is Justification, to stand before God with all debts paid, and clothed in the righteousness of His only Son, Jesus Christ. To be able know that you have “peace with God”–there is no more war between you and the Almighty.  Romans 5:1(HCSB) Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
When the religions of the world are stripped down to their basic beliefs, we either find man working his way toward God, or we find the cross of Christ. The cross is the only way to salvation.God sent His Son into the world, and the very people who should have celebrated His coming rejected Him, bringing judgment upon themselves. As a result, the kingdom of heaven was opened up to anyone who will set aside his own righteousness and by faith accept the righteousness God provides in Christ. Those who reject the gift of salvation and hold on to their own “good” works will spend eternity in hell.

 

If we would be ready for Christ’s return, we must be born again through saving faith in Jesus Christ… Saving faith in Jesus Christ will manifest itself in every aspect of our lives. The fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control)will begin to show. Galatians 5:22-23(HCSB)22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. A desire for greater holiness and less sin will be apparent. And a consistent looking for His coming will mark our lives. One of the best passages on what saving grace and faith look like in a believer’s life is Titus 2:11-14(HCSB)11 For the grace of God has appeared with salvation for all people, 12 instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 14 He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people for His own possession, eager to do good works.

Parable 5 Rich Young Ruler

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This parable appears in the Gospel of Matthew 19:16–30, the Gospel of Mark 10:17–31 and the Gospel of Luke 18:18–30.

Despite the evilness of the twentieth century, we have not yet learned the depths of human depravity. Secularists have taught us that we are basically good — all we need is education. Polls also suggest that evangelicals overwhelmingly believe in the goodness of man.

This is surprising, given Scripture’s assumption that we are chronically sinful. Paul tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God Romans 3:23(HCSB). In Psalm 51:5(HCSB)Indeed, I was guilty when I was born;I was sinful when my mother conceived me., David confesses his evil nature was present even at the moment of his conception.

Our Savior once met someone who was confident in his own money and status instead of his allegiance to God. Wondering how he could inherit eternal life, this rich young man came to Jesus wondering what he had to “do” (Mark 10:17). The use of “do” indicates that he thought he could enter God’s kingdom by doing good.

Mark 10:17–31(HCSB)17 As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 “Why do you call Me good?” Jesus asked him. “No one is good but One—God. 19 You know the commandments: Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; do not defraud; honor your father and mother.” 20 He said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these from my youth.” 21 Then, looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him, “You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” 22 But he was stunned at this demand, and he went away grieving, because he had many possessions. 23 Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 But the disciples were astonished at His words. Again Jesus said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 So they were even more astonished, saying to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Looking at them, Jesus said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God, because all things are possible with God.” 28 Peter began to tell Him, “Look, we have left everything and followed You.” 29 “I assure you,” Jesus said, “there is no one who has left house, brothers or sisters, mother or father, children, or fields because of Me and the gospel, 30 who will not receive 100 times more, now at this time—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and eternal life in the age to come. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

 

Jesus does not directly reprimand the man for this belief. Rather, Jesus responds by asking the man why he was calling Jesus “good,” for no one is good but God alone (v. 18). Jesus is not denying His own goodness; He is indirectly forcing the man to question his assumption that he knows goodness and therefore, the Lord. In effect Jesus is saying “no one is good but God, and therefore you cannot rely on your moral behavior to inherit the life of the age to come. Like anyone else, you must follow me.”

Christ then gives him a list of ethical commandments and tells him that if he does all these, he will enter the kingdom of God (v. 19). Because he still did not understand, the young man’s response to Jesus was to receive a “laundry list” of commandments that he needed to follow in order to receive eternal life.  Jesus replied by listing five commandments that all deal with human relationships. Matthew 19:18-19(HCSB)18 “Which ones?” he asked Him. Jesus answered:Do not murder;do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; 19 honor your father and your mother; and love your neighbor as yourself.  This is important because He was making a distinction between having faith in the law (or in his own abilities) and having faith in God; that is, the difference between the law and grace.  The young man thought that the law could save him, but Jesus knew that that was impossible.The man is quite pleased, and he professes his own conformity (v. 20). Even if he did obey those commands, he was still missing something — Jesus catches him on the first commandment. Seeing that he worships the idols of wealth and social status, Jesus tells him to sell his goods and follow Him. But the man is not satisfied, and he refuses to let go of his riches. Mark 10:21–22(HCSB)21 Then, looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him, “You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” 22 But he was stunned at this demand, and he went away grieving, because he had many possessions.

At least two sins were revealed here: First, the young man was not as blameless as he thought he was because he was guilty of loving himself and his possessions more than his neighbor, and second, he lacked true faith which requires an unparalleled devotion to Jesus.  This is when Jesus called over His disciples to teach them a lesson.  He said, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:25).  The disciple’s response was, “Then who can be saved?” or, “Then how is it possible for anyone to be qualified to enter the kingdom of God?” (Mark 10:26)Having seen the true nature of his prideful confidence, this man is bluntly denied the possibility of entering the kingdom on his own merit. He preferred to worship his money instead of God. The next verse 27 This is where the famous and oft quoted verse comes in, which is the inspiration for our question.  Jesus replied, Mark 10:27(HCSB) Looking at them, Jesus said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God, because all things are possible with God.”.  This answers our first contextual issue, for we can now see that the “this” concerns salvation.  It is impossible for man to save himself by his own merits, or for the law to grant eternal life.  The grace offered only by Jesus Christ is necessary.  The question now is, “What did Jesus mean by ‘all things?’”

This part of the question concerns God’s omnipotence, or, His power.  It is important to understand that omnipotence does not mean that God is capable of doing anything including the irrational or imperfect. There are things that God is incapable of doing, such as lying or denying Himself (Hebrews 6:18; 2 Timothy 2:13; Titus 1:2).  Because God cannot do certain things, however, does not mean that He is less God because the things that He cannot do would actually take away from His perfect nature.  Instead, omnipotence refers to God’s power, which is unlimited (Job 11:7-11, Job 37:23; Revelation 4:8).  That is, God can take the things that are impossible to man, and make them possible because His power is unlimited, while ours is limited.  The context of Jesus’ statement in Mark 10:27 is a perfect example of His unlimited power because while it is possible for man to be saved, it is impossible for man to accomplish the goal on his own.  God’s unlimited power is needed to make the possibly impossible, possible.

Scripture is full of verses that portray God making the possibly impossible possible.  When Abraham and Sarah were awaiting the promise of a son, even after they were well past child bearing years, God told them, “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14)  In the book of Numbers when the Israelites were complaining to Moses about food, the Lord told Moses that he was going to feed over 600,000 people for an entire month.  Moses was skeptical, but God said, “Is the Lord’s power limited?  Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not” (Numbers 11:23).  In the book of Job, after forty-two chapters of trials, Job was able to answer God and say, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).  The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear” (Isaiah 59:1).  Jeremiah said, “Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You” (Jeremiah 32:17).  Finally, in Luke 1:37, in foretelling the birth of Jesus, the angel Gabriel told Mary, “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

It is easy to get hung up on the word “all,” but it is best to remember that the context of this statement is in reference to salvation.  God made a way when the way was impossible for us.  This is what it means that “with God all things are possible.”

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer argues that this interpretation gives in what he calls “cheap grace,” lowering the standard of Christian teaching:

The difference between ourselves and the rich young man is that he was not allowed to solace his regrets by saying: “Never mind what Jesus says, I can still hold on to my riches, but in a spirit of inner detachment. Despite my inadequacy I can take comfort in the thought that God has forgiven me my sins and can have fellowship with Christ in faith.” But no, he went away sorrowful. Because he would not obey, he could not believe. In this the young man was quite honest. He went away from Jesus and indeed this honesty had more promise than any apparent communion with Jesus based on disobedience.

 

Let us never be found professing Christ while remaining idolaters.

Parable 4 The Unforgiving Slave

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The Parable of the Unforgiving Slave

The parable is told as an answer to a question by Peter about forgiveness:

Matthew 18:21-35(HCSB)21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how many times could my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”

22 “I tell you, not as many as seven,” Jesus said to him, “but 70 times seven.” 23 For this reason, the kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he began to settle accounts, one who owed 10,000 talents  was brought before him. 25 Since he had no way to pay it back, his master commanded that he, his wife, his children, and everything he had be sold to pay the debt.

26 “At this, the slave fell facedown before him and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you everything!’ 27 Then the master of that slave had compassion, released him, and forgave him the loan.

28 “But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him 100 denarii. He grabbed him, started choking him, and said, ‘Pay what you owe!’

29 “At this, his fellow slave fell down and began begging him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ 30 But he wasn’t willing. On the contrary, he went and threw him into prison until he could pay what was owed. 31 When the other slaves saw what had taken place, they were deeply distressed and went and reported to their master everything that had happened.

32 “Then, after he had summoned him, his master said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And his master got angry and handed him over to the jailers to be tortured until he could pay everything that was owed. 35 So My heavenly Father will also do to you if each of you does not forgive his brother from his heart.”Payback is planted in the bottom of our hearts — every one of us is a born retaliator. If we’re to answer wrongdoing with any other response than wrongdoing, we need a change at the core of our being.

 

But before we examine the Parable we need to remember three things.

  • Forgiveness is not the same as forgetting. We may forget, but your forgiving can be sincere even if you remember. When God “forgets” our sins, they do not slip out of his memory. He simply does not hold them against us.
  • Forgiveness is not justifying, excusing or understanding why the person acted toward you the way he or she did.
  • Forgiveness is our emotional response to the offender. Pardon deals with the consequences of the offense. Unless we have the authority we may not be able to pardon the offense, but we can always forgive.

Payback is planted in the bottom of our hearts — every one of us is a born retaliator. If we’re to answer wrongdoing with any other response than wrongdoing, we need a change at the core of our being.

 

This parable is unique to Matthew’s Gospel. The lines before the parable itself are similar to Luke 17:3-4(HCSB)

3 Be on your guard. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and comes back to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

The talent in this parable was worth about 6,000 denarii, so that one debt is 600,000 times as large as the other. More significantly, 10,000 (a myriad) was the highest Greek numeral, and a talent the largest unit of currency, so that 10,000 talents was the largest easily described debt (for comparison, the combined annual tribute of Judea, Samaria, and Idumea around this time was only 600 talents, and one denarius was a day’s wages, so that 10,000 talents would be about 200,000 years’ wages). The setting is the court of some king in another country, where the “servants” could rank as highly as provincial governors. Therefore, compared to what the first servant was forgiven, this was a very small amount. The principle here is, “the one forgiven much should forgive much.” In other words, the principle of forgiveness is that grace or forgiveness to another is without limit. The disciples are not to count the number of times they forgive. Rather, as the parable teaches, they are to forgive much because God has forgiven much.

Peter makes two mistakes that are apparent to us. First, he assumes that his brother will sin against him and not he against his brother. And secondly, Peter wanted to set some kind of limit on forgiveness. In all fairness to Peter he was generous in his limit. He asked if forgiving seven times would be sufficient. The Rabbi’s of the time taught that one must forgive three times, this is drawn from a misunderstanding of the book of Amos, which says that God would revoke punishment against them for three transgressions but not for four. The phrase “for three sins . . . even for four” is a common phrase in Amos (1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 2:1, 4, 6). Used a total of eight times in the book, these words play a special role in the way Amos communicates sin and judgment. “Three sins” represents fullness or completeness; “four” represents an overflow or a sin that is the tipping point for God’s judgment. The word sins or transgressions in Hebrew specifically refers to “rebellions.” Interestingly, “for three sins . . . even for four” is not followed by four specific sins. In fact, the typical pattern is to list one or two sins and move on. Therefore, the expression is not meant to imply a specific number of sins but to communicate that there is an excess of sins that have led to God’s judgment. Thus they taught that God himself never forgave more than three times. To Peter’s credit he is more than doubling what the Rabbi’s taught.

 

Jesus is presenting a new principle that is similar to the basis of the forgiveness command for believers found in Ephesians 4:32(HCSB)32 And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. The term “seventy times seven” is literally “seventy seven” and is a little ambiguous it can mean either “seventy plus seven” or “seventy times seven” but the meaning is the same it is a call for unlimited forgiveness. By the time you have forgiven someone that many times, you are in the habit of forgiving and will not need to set limits.

Jesus is teaching His disciples pre-cross, and therefore in the pre-church age, but the basis for forgiveness is the same. Because God has forgiven us, we are to forgive each other. Romans 5:8(HCSB)8 But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! Therefore, because we have received much grace, we are commanded to give that same grace to others. In the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, the first servant’s debt was forgiven, and he was not required to repay until his unforgiving nature was discovered. In contrast, our sin debt was paid in full by Christ and is the only basis for God’s forgiveness. We cannot repay our debt to God or earn our salvation. It is a gift of grace. Ephesians 2:8-9(HCSB)8 For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— 9 not from works, so that no one can boast.

 

But why is forgiveness so hard? First, forgiveness is difficult because it is not natural. The natural human impulse is to get even, to exact revenge. Forgiveness goes against the grain of human existence. Secondly, forgiveness is hard because it is not fair. To forgive without just repayment offends our sense of justice. We want to be vindicated.

Matthew 5:21-24(HCSB)21 “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. 22 But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You moron!’ will be subject to hellfire. 23 So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

As Christians, all hope for that change is found in Christ. Nowhere else can we find a man who,as 1 Peter 2:23(HCSB)when He was reviled,He did not revile in return; when He was suffering, He did not threaten but entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly.

1 Peter 2:21(HCSB)21 For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in His steps, Through the redemption and example of his death, Christians are called to imitate their Lord when confronted with evil: 1 Peter 3:9(HCSB)8 Now finally, all of you should be like-minded and sympathetic, should love believers, and be compassionate and humble, 9 not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you can inherit a blessing. This blessing — sincere words of good from a changed heart — is a unique witness to a world that does not yet share our hope in a new world to come.

 

This enormous degree of forgiveness should be the model for the way that Christians forgive others. An unforgiving nature is offensive to God. Forgiveness must be genuine.

It is like the C.S. Lewis quote: “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” ― C.S. Lewis

 

Jesus is teaching His disciples, and us by extension, that forgiveness should be in like proportion to the amount forgiven. The first servant had been forgiven all, and he then should have forgiven all. In like manner, a child of God by faith through Christ has had all sins forgiven. Therefore, when someone offends or sins against us we should be willing to forgive him from a heart of gratitude for the grace to which we ourselves are debtors.

 

Almost always when we think about forgiveness the Holy Spirit flashes names and faces across our minds; people who either need to ask for forgiveness from or extend forgiveness to.

Do you need to ask for forgiveness from someone? Can you think of a person right now that you have wronged and you have not yet owned up to it?

Do you need to extend forgiveness to someone who has wronged you? Is there someone who wronged you, and you have never been able to let go of it? Are you ready to forgive the debt?

Do you need to admit you’re a sinner and ask for the forgiveness of God the Father? If you have never done so, now is the right time. He stands ready to forgive if you will but ask Him?

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.