The Sermon on the Mount
By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

29 – Rock or Sand

Matthew 7:24-27:

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.

In this study I am dealing with the last two verses of the Sermon on the Mount.  Out next study will deal with verses 28 and 29, which concludes this chapter.  Every sermon has an application and the application and conclusion of The Sermon on the Mount actually begins in verse 13 of Matthew 7.  I would like to briefly summarize what He has said before so that when we come to the concluding verses (24-27), we will see how it fits in.  What Christ does in His application is paint word pictures of the contrast between the true Christian, who not only hears Him but obeys Him, and the pseudo or false christian.

The first picture is found in verses 13 and 14:

“Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

The true Christian enters the narrow gate.  The false christian enters the wide gate, which is popular – many go therein.

The second picture that He paints is in verses 15 to 20, where He describes the fact that the true Christian is not deceived by false prophets or teachers:

“Watch out for false prophets.  They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.  By their fruit you will recognize them.  Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?  Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”

They recognize that there are wolves in sheep’s skins.  They seem to have your concern in mind but really they are wolves.  The pseudo-christian is swept by every wind of doctrine.  One reason is because he is not studying; he doesn’t spend time studying the Word of God.

The third picture that Christ paints is of the true Christian who rejoices in Christ alone and puts no confidence in the flesh.  You will find that in verses 21 to 23:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.  Away from me, you evildoers!’”

There Christ is warning His disciples against legalism, against the teachings of the Pharisees.  He goes on to say that, “Not everyone who says, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”  Do you know what the will of God is?  Turn to John 6.  There are several statements in the New Testament, especially in the gospels as to what is the will of God.  In verses 28 and 29 we read:

Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this:  to believe in the one he has sent.”

The Pharisees were doing lots of things but they had not believed in Christ.  The Christian legalist is a pseudo-christian.  He claims to be a believer but he doesn’t know Christ.  That is why Christ says, “I never knew you.”

Now we come to the fourth and final illustration which begins in verse 24:

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.

First of all, remember that this was spoken in the Middle East.  The Middle East has two rainy seasons – the main one is in winter.  During the dry season the river beds are dry and sandy and very often, when the rains come, they have huge floods.  We had a similar problem in Africa and we lost some very dear missionaries.  They were traveling and stopped at the bottom of a river bed and they heard a tremendous thunder and it was a huge wall of water because it had rained in the mountains.  It swept away the car and this dear brother and African pastor with him were swept away and we never found their bodies.

Jesus says there are two men and they both build houses, but the difference is one builds on the sand and the other on the rock.  Notice the introduction (verse 24):

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice....

That is the wise man.  Look at verse 26 and you will notice that the foolish man has something in common with the wise man:

But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man....

They both hear the Word of God.  One is a superficial believer:  he hears the Word of God but doesn’t do what the word says.

In this study, we will look at the similarities of the two men and the differences and we will do the same thing with the houses and then we will see how the application applies to us.  Obviously, both these men were believers because they both heard the message.  They both had the same desires:  they wanted to build a house.  They desired the same thing, they heard the same thing, they planned the same thing — there were no differences in that.  That is where the similarity is.  The difference is where they built.  They are building not very far apart.  Turn to Luke 6:47 where you have the same parable but it goes into a little more detail (Luke 6:47-49):

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?  I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice [he is a believer].  He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock.  When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.  But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation.  The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”

The surface soil for both houses may be sandy but the wise man did not build on the sand because he knew it could not stand the storm so he “dug down deep.”  The foolish man said “Nobody can see the foundation!  Why are you wasting your time?”

The foolish man was different in that he was only concerned about the outward appearance.  He conformed outwardly — he looked outwardly like a Christian — he came to church and did all the things that outwardly we do, but his heart was not in it.  He did not dig deep.  You will discover that, in the whole Sermon on the Mount, Christ is constantly contrasting between the true Christian and the pseudo-christian.

When we come to the application who is the rock?  Go to 1 Corinthians 3:11.  We all know that Christ is the Rock.  That is not the problem.  Even the superficial person believes that Christ is the Rock.  There is something else we need to know.  This text is dealing with the foundation:

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

So the Rock is not only Jesus Christ, it is the historical Jesus Christ — what He has already accomplished 2,000 years ago.  He goes on in verses 12-13:

If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.  It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.

The only difference here and in what Christ said is the test.  Christ told of a flood and here Paul uses fire.  It doesn’t matter how we describe the test.  But, when you look at the two houses, they were very similar in appearance.  The problem was not the appearance; the problem was the foundation.  And the foundation is revealed only when it is tested.  Here are two men who looked alike, both were Christians outwardly, but one built on the Rock and one built superficially.

Do you remember when Jesus asked the people, “Who do you say that I am?”  Matthew 16:13-18:

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked.  “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.  And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

Who is this Rock that Jesus told Peter about?  Christ.  The word “Rock” that Jesus uses (upon which the Church is to be built) is feminine and it can’t be Peter because he is masculine.  Some say it can’t be Christ then, because Christ is masculine, too.  In reality, it is the confession of Peter, “You are the Christ,” that is the Rock.  That is what we build our Christianity on.  My faith is built on nothing less than Jesus Christ’s righteousness.  That is the Rock — the confession of Peter is what the Church is built on and no storm can destroy that Church.  No storm can destroy the individual whose house is built on the Rock Jesus Christ.

Let’s go to one more text.  This text reveals a very important truth.  Let’s read 1 Samuel 16:7:

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.  The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

You can deceive your fellow man but not God!

The foundation of our Christian experience must be Jesus Christ in the heart.  There is another text that says the same thing:  Proverbs 16:2:

All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.

This is the difference between these two men that Christ is talking about.  Both of them are believers, both attend Church, both hear the message, their names are on the books, but the difference is that one has built his Christianity on the Rock Jesus Christ and the other one on himself.  If you look at Matthew 7:22 you will see the foolish man described:

“Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’”

The foolish man says, “Lord, Lord, haven’t I cast out devils in your name, haven’t I prophesied in your name, haven’t I done many wonderful works in your name?”  And what will Christ say in verse 23?  “I never knew you.  Your Christian experience was not based upon the Rock.”  Was Christ against the works of this man?  No.  Were this man’s works the problem?  No.  The problem was he was depending on those works for his security.  That is why Christ said, “I don’t even know you.”

If you look at the message of the Sermon on the Mount, you will notice that Christ is not making a set of rules — of do’s and don’ts — but a set of values and ideals which are entirely distinct from the ways of the world.  The Christian thinks, acts, and behaves differently from the world.  I will give you some examples.  Repeatedly in this Sermon on the Mount you will see that Christ is calling for His disciples to be unlike the Pharisees, unlike the people of the world.  We have to be different.  The difference has to be in our mind.  Turn to Romans 8:5.  Here Paul describes two kinds of mentality:

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

Here is one major distinction between the true and the false believer.  The true believer’s heart is on the things of God.  Then Paul goes on in verse 6:

The mind of sinful man is death [when the storm comes you will not be able to stand], but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;....

That is why Paul, in his counsel in Chapter 12 of Romans, says in verse 2:

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.

The perfect will of God is that you obey him from the heart, not just superficially.

Go now to 1 John 1:6-7, which brings this same idea out very clearly.  Here John is also talking of believers but he is talking of pseudo-christians – outward, insincere christians:

If we claim to have fellowship with him [we say we are Christians] yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

The context of this passage is basically what Jesus was saying.  He was contrasting.  The true believer who walks in the light says, “I am a sinner but it is not I, but Christ.”  But look at verse 8 for the other man:

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

A true Christian is one, to use the words of Paul in Philippians 3:3, who is rejoicing in Christ Jesus and has no confidence in himself:

For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh....

When we go back to the pictures that Christ is painting ... let’s go back to Matthew 7 and we will see in the previous picture in verses 21-23 that Christ is describing the legalist, the one who is doing many good things but for the wrong reason.  He is doing them that he may go to heaven:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.  Away from me, you evildoers!’”

We call it antinomianism.  They believe in the things of Christ, they accept the things of Christ, but it does not transform them; it doesn’t touch their lives.  They are no different from the unbeliever in practice.  Their lives are not conformed to the light, but they are living like worldly people.  This is one of the biggest problems we face here (in the United States).  When an African becomes a Christian, he knows that he is coming out of paganism.  So when he is baptized, he will change his name, which sometimes is a problem, because his friends know him by his old name.

We had a pastor who had three sons and they were having a fourth one so he came to my wife and asked if she would choose a nice name for their new child.  She told him that she had a book that had all kinds of names in it with their meaning.  She loaned it to him.  The first thing they did with the book was look up the meanings of the names of their previous sons – one was about 12 and one about 9.  They had given them names of well-respected people that they had known.  One name was “Cleveland,” because a man with that name had held evangelistic efforts in Africa.  The other one was born about the time that John Kennedy was assassinated and so they called him “Kennedy.”  They couldn’t find those two names in the book and they got worried; they came to my wife and told her that they couldn’t find their sons names in the book.

In America, the last name is the “surname” and then you have the “first name.”  But in England, the last name is called the “surname” and the first name is called the “Christian name.”  The last name is the family name and they don’t use the word “first” but “Christian” name.  So Jean said to them, “Cleveland and Kennedy are not Christian names” meaning “not first names.”  “You took the last name of a man and used it for a first name.”  Do you know what they did?  They went back home horrified and they changed the names of those two sons.

The problem we have here (in America) is we believe consciously or subconsciously that we are living in a Christian country.  Therefore, we don’t have to change our name; this is a Christian country.  The result is that the culture moves in one direction and just a few years later the Church moves in the same direction.  So sometimes there is very little difference between the culture pattern and the church’s lifestyle.  But we need to realize that there is no such country as a “Christian country.”  There are Christians in a country.  It is true that some of the lifestyles that were first instituted in this country were from men who were Christians.  But humanism has come into this country and we are moving in a very humanistic way:  we are allowing our feelings, our desires to control us.  We must recognize that because, when the storm comes, the world will be swept away and, if you belong to it, you will be swept away, too.

With that in mind, I want you to look at a couple of texts.  Christ is ending with the application:  Please do not be a superficial Christian.  He is warning his hearers that they must not be simply hearers but doers of the Word.  A doer of the Word is a person who allows Christ to change his life, to transform him through the Holy Spirit.  The first text is 1 John 2:15-17 and here you have the contrast – the same counsel given by the Apostle John:

Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For everything in the world — the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does — comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

What is the will of God?  As we have seen, one “will of God” is believing in Him.  But please remember that believing the Word is more than a mental assent to truth.  Turn now to Galatians 5:24 and we will see what it means to believe the Word.  And the context, of course, is the fruit of the Spirit.  This text is Paul’s conclusion to the fruits of the Spirit:

Those who belong to Christ Jesus [who believe in Christ] have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.

That is the mentality of a Christian who does the will of God.  He has said, “Not I, but Christ.”  The “Not I” means no more should we yield or respond to the flesh and be friends with it.  Look at a text in Jude:  verses 21-24, talking about the last generation of Christians.  Maybe we should start with verse 20, because it has to do with building.  This is the counsel:

But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.  Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear — hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy....

In verses 22 and 23, he is contrasting the two groups, just like the Sermon on the Mount.  There are some who will have to learn to say goodbye to the flesh in the time of trouble.  Ellen G. White says that what we fail to do in this time of ease we will have to learn to do in the time of trouble.

There is another text in James 1:27.  Notice how the Apostle James describes a true Christian:

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Take care of those who have needs.  Christ went about doing good and true Christians have a great desire to help others.

You have the same idea in James 4:4; this is in the context of “come out of her, my people”:

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?  Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

We need to realize that this is Christ’s burden as He closes this sermon.  A Christian who walks in the light is a Christian who has identified himself with Christ.  Not only with the good things but also with His suffering.  When we by faith link ourselves with Christ, His thoughts will become our thoughts, His desires our desires, His goals in life our goals, His ideals will be our ideals.  What Christ is considering in this sermon is this:  “Please don’t give me lip service.  I want a heart appreciation and a heart response.”

Here is the problem:  When you look at a building, can you see the foundation?  No.  Why?  It is below the surface.  It impossible for us to judge who is a true Christian in the Church and who is not.  So Christ already said that judging is not our job, but He now is saying, “Do not be a superficial Christian.”  He is warning His hearers that it is not enough to hear the word of God, it is important that we also respond from the heart and say, “God, what do You want me to do?”

It is my prayer that we will not give Christ lip service but that our service for Christ will come from the heart.  That our hope, our righteousness, our security will not be based on us but on Jesus Christ.  When the storm comes it will be pretty bad.  You know what happened in Ethiopia when they put those young people in the camps?  Only one, that I know of, among approximately 8,000 were able to stand the pressure.  It is not our willpower, it is not our performance; it is our faith in the Rock Jesus Christ. Faith in the historical Christ that will take us through.  Even though Christ will give you total victory over sin, you will not know it.  Your nature, which is always sinful up until the Second Coming of Christ, will always tell you that you are a sinner.  The closer you come to Christ, the more sinful you will feel.  Therefore, the Rock that will secure you is, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus Christ and His righteousness.”

While we are building the house on the rock let that house be built on the Rock Christ.  Our performance, our desires, our activities, everything must be based on Jesus Christ.  We begin with the historical Christ and we end with “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”  When our house is built on that Rock, our performance will simply reflect what is already ours in Christ.

Please remember that sanctification is not adding to justification; sanctification is simply manifesting justification.  Justification by faith is the Rock [faith in Christ]; sanctification is the house.  When the storm comes, the house cannot stand without the foundation.  The foundation is what will take you through.  May God bless us as we come to the end of this Sermon on the Mount.

Our next study is not so much what Christ says as how the people respond.  I want you to keep this in mind.  There is a problem today that existed in the days of Christ.  That is this:  Jesus had no formal training; He did not have a Ph.D.  He had no theological background from the human point of view.  Yet the people responded and said that He spoke with authority.  What made the difference?  Where did He get His authority?  From God.

It will not be the scholars who finish the work in this Church.  It will be lay people who receive their authority from God.  Never get the idea that you don’t have the training.  Jesus spoke with authority because He was totally God-dependent.  And you will be able to do the same thing if you are totally Christ-dependant.  He will lead you to truth through the Holy Spirit and He will give you power.  Jesus said to His disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.”  Why?  Because all authority has been give to Christ and He passes it on to you if you build your house upon the Rock.

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