Sermon Notes – Sept 8, 2019
Warning. . . Foundation Test Looming!
City on a Hill– Part 13
Rev. L. Kent Blanton
- Fury of Hurricane Dorian was unleashed on the Bahamas this past week
- Storms wreak havoc and leave devastation and death in their wake
- Storms issue a summons for battle – a battle between the storm’s fury and a dwelling’s integrity
- Of great importance to the outcome of the battle is the kind of foundation undergirding the structure being assaulted
- We may not all encounter storms of nature like Dorian, but we all have faced, or will face, storms of life: health, finances, shattered dreams, relational challenges, emotional challenges, and the storm of death
- When the storms of life descend upon your life, how will you fare? Who will win the battle? The storm, or you?
- This question is at the heart of our focus passage today, the last section of the Sermon on the Mount which we have been studying in our summer preaching series entitled, City on a Hill.
Focus Text: Matt 7:24-29
- Jesus ends his teaching by sharing a short illustration about two men. The purpose of the illustration is to help his disciples and the crowds understand that they are called upon to make a choice. A choice whether they will follow Jesus’ teachings or not.
- What teachings is Jesus referring to in his illustration? He’s referring to everything that he has just taught them. The teachings are those recorded in Matthew chs. 5-7 that we have examined over the summer.
Jesus’ teachings in Matt chapters 5-7
- Jesus’ first words in the sermon were to describethe kind of qualities produced in disciples who are embracing kingdom rule in their lives, who are submitting to God’s reign. We call these qualities the Beatitudes(Matt 5:3-12)
- Being poor in spirit, in other words, recognizing our need for God (Matt 5:3)
- Mourning over our sin, grieving over the way our words and actions so often fall short of God’s standards (Matt 5:4)
- Meekness; the opposite of the domineering, aggressive, harsh, and tyrannical spirit prevalent in our world (Matt 5:5)
- Craving righteousness; seeking justice for the poor, exploited, and marginalized, seeking the restoration of relationships, and longing for ethical living and the forsaking of sin in own lives and world (Matt 5:6)
- Showing mercy, in the same way that God has shown mercy to us (Matt 5:7)
- Purity of heart; single-minded devotion to God and his purposes (Matt 5:8)
- Being a peacemaker; seeking God’s shalom in every human relationship because God has made peace with us through his Son (Matt 5:9)
- Being persecuted for doing what is right is the eighth quality of someone embracing kingdom rule (Matt 5 :10)
- Enduring and even rejoicing when under persecution for following Jesus, even at great personal cost (Matt 5:11-12)
- Jesus taught that his followers are salt and light (Matt 5:13-16).Salt seasons and preserves; light dispels darkness. As we follow Jesus and become more like him, our lives season the world around us with God’s character. Our lives reflect a true picture of God just as a lamp on a stand gives light to a house and like a city on a hillpoints the way forward for hikers on a dark night.
- Jesus taught that the superficial, legalistic and external religiosity of the Jewish scribes and Pharisees was not enough to enter God’s kingdom. The righteousness necessary to enter and walk in God’s kingdom requires an inner obedience from the heart (Matt 5:20).
- How do we live up to that kind of righteousness? We can’t. It’s impossible. Jesus has made impossible righteousness possiblefor those who choose kingdom citizenship (1 Cor. 5:21).
- When we submit to the king and become a citizen of his kingdom, a helper, the Holy Spirit, comes to live inside of us. By the Spirit’s power, God’s power, we begin a process of transformation that allows us to live out a righteousness that surpasses that of the Jewish religious leaders (Gal 2:20). It’s a righteousness that embraces and fulfills the heart attitude and motivation at the very core of the OT law.
- What does that righteousness that fulfills thishigher standardlook like?
Jesus’ higher standard of righteousness
- It means choosing to eat humble pie rather than blowing a gasket. For instance, it’s not enough to refrain from physical murder, we must forsake anger toward others. It means pursuing forgiveness and reconciliation as a way of life (Matt 5:21-26).
- It’s also more than refraining from the physical act of adultery. It involves refusing temptations to lust and refraining from activities like viewing pornography that stimulate and gratify lust (Matt 5:27-30).
- It involves treating marriage vows as sacred and choosing divorce only as a last resort, rather than as an easy way out (Matt 5:31-32).
- It means keeping your word and walking with integrity (Matt 5:33-37),
- It demands loving without limits. This involves forsaking revenge and responding in an opposite spirit when wronged or taken advantage of (Matt 5:38-47).
- It means going the extra mile to communicate God’s love and choosing to respond with attitudes opposite to the world. It means striving to be whole and complete as God is whole and complete by rejecting both perfectionismandcomplacencyas we follow Jesus (Matt 5:43-48).
- Jesus taught that his disciples were to remember that why they do what they do, matters and they were to practice prayer, giving to the poor and fasting, with hearts that wanted to please God, rather than seeking to impress others with our spirituality (Matt 6:1-18).
- Jesus taught that forgiveness of others is essential if we want to experience God’s forgiveness ourselves. That we must forgive others in the same way that God has forgiven us (Matt 6:14-15).
- Jesus taught the we can’t serve both God and materialism and that we are to live our earthly lives focused on eternity and eternal values (Matt 6:19-24).
- He taught us not to worry, but to trust that God is always a good Father. Instead of trying to get ahead in life, he taught us to earnestly pursue kingdom priorities. He said that if we do, our basic needs will be supplied (Matt 6:25-34).
- He taught us not to judge others harshly as if we are the judge and jurycombined, but to judge others like we would want to be adjudicated, remembering the mercy God has shown to us (Matt 7:1-5).
- He taught his disciples the importance of spiritual discernment, persistence in prayer, as well the good and Fatherly nature of God. He taught that the whole of the OT could be summed up by the mantra, “Treat others just as you desire to be treated” (Matt 7:6-12).
- He also said that the most important factor in our spiritual trajectory is our destination. If we are intent in finding life as our destination, we must choose the small gate which is belief in Jesus, and the narrow, difficult way of following Him requiring total submission and obedience (Matt 7:13-14).
- He warned that we must be careful what teachers we pay attention to and that the proof is always in the pudding. In other words, the authenticity of a person’s faith and heart will always be evident in how they live (Matt 7:15-20).
- He warned that doing Christian or church activities is no sure ticket to heaven, but only submission to God’s will. He even says that many who think they are Christians will be shocked when they get turned away at heaven’s gate one day, because they haven’t done God’s will (Matt 7:21-23).
Jesus illustration: Two men (Matt 7:24-27)
- Jesus says those who hear his teachings and then put them into practice are like a sensible man who builds his house on a foundation of rock. In other words, a person who believes Jesus words and acts on them is like a man who understands that the foundation for a house is the most critical part of the structure.
- Those who hear and put Jesus words into practice will weather the storms of life, no matter how fiercely they rage and beat against his or her life (Matt 7:24-25).
- Those who hear his words and don’t put them into practice are like a man who chooses to build his house upon sand. When storms assail his house, the foundation is not stable enough to support the structure in the battle against the storm. The house loses and the dwelling comes crashing down (Matt 7:26-27).
- In the same say, the lives of those who ignore or refuse Jesus’ teachings will not weather the storms of this life or the final storm of death.
- Jesus is repeating the message that he has sounded several times during his message. He says, “You’re either for me, or against me. You’re either my follower, or you’re not. And if you’re my follower, the cost of following me is obedience.”
Who was present in Jesus’ audience on the hillside? (Matt 7:28-29)
- Three groups of people:
- “Crowds”– those who were curious and had come to hear what Jesus had to say
- The writer, Matthew, tells us that when Jesus had finished speaking, the crowdswereamazed at his teaching (Matt 7:28)
- The term “amazed” is the passive form of the Greek word ekplesso,which in Matthew is not an expression of faith or acceptance. It indicates a variety of emotional responses, but not a commitment to follow Jesus the Messiah.
- In other places in Matthew, the word “amazed” (ekplesso)is used to describe Jesus’ hometown’s unbelieving reaction to his ministry (13:58), his own disciples’ astonished response at the difficulty of a rich man being saved (19:25), and the crowd’s astonishment at Jesus’ teaching on marriage at the resurrection (22:33).
- Jesus was calling the crowds, those present who were only somewhat interested, to make a decision. He called them to a commitment.
- Perhaps you are like the crowds. You’re spiritually curious; you sense there is something different about Jesus, but you have not yet chosen to believe in him as God’s Son and to make him the Lord, the boss, of your life.
- Just as he called to the crowds, Jesus calls you to a decision. Will you place your faith and trust in him, turn from your rebellion, and choose to follow him?
- Jewish religious leaders (Matt 5:20; cf. Matt 23:1-36)
- These leaders did all the right things, but for the wrong reasons. They were focused on external obedience, on form and ritual, but their hearts didn’t match their outward actions. They did some things for show. Jesus called them hypocrites.
- Jesus said the righteousness of these leaders wasn’t sufficient to enter the kingdom of heaven. Are you like the religious leaders? Your outward actions look right, but your heart is not in it. You’re trying to earn your way to God’s favour or doing good things to look good to others.
- You may do all kinds of good things, you may have even come to church for years, but you have not chosen to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and to follow him in total submission. Jesus is not your king.
- Jesus calls you to a decision. Will you continue trusting in your own goodness, or will you choose to recognize your desperate need for God and trust in the work of his Son, Jesus. He died on the cross in your place paying the penalty for your sins. And he rose, again, three days later to offer you eternal life. Jesus calls you to a commitment to follow him today.
- Disciples (Matt 5:1)
- Those who had chosen to believe in and follow Jesus. He also called these followers to a decision. Would they put Jesus teachings into practice in their daily lives and live out their destiny as a city on a hill, or would they see Jesus’ teachings as an ideal that for all practical purposes is unobtainable.
- Jesus was saying, “Following me involves a cost.” It means laying down your own desires and priorities and, in their place, adopting mine. Following me requires obedience.
The Bottom Line
- Jesus quizzes you and me just as he quizzed those on the hillside two millennia ago. Are you going to build your life on a foundation of stone or on a foundation of sand? The storms of life are looming. Will the foundation upon which you are building your life stand the tests that lay ahead?
Basic Commitments for a Firm Foundation
To build our lives on the foundation of Jesus, we must:
- Worship Together– Heb 10:25 says “Don’t stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing. Instead, encourage each other, especially as you see the day drawing near.”
You and I won’t build solid lives well if we neglect assembling together for worship. We must not be casual about church attendance; we must be regular in worshipping with our spiritual family.
- Grow Together– The best way to do this is in a small group (Acts 2:42-47). Small groups are about three things: community, discipleship, and outreach. Small groups are the church in microcosm. In small groups we love, pray, and care for one another, we study the Bible and apply it to our lives together, and we learn to actively share the good news and love of Jesus in ways that bring transformation to those outside the church. If you won’t to grow as a disciple, participation in small group is the best way to pursue it.
- Serve Together– You and I must not ask, “What can the Body of Christ can do for me,” but rather, “What I can do for the Body of Christ?” The Body of Christ is only healthy to the extent that each member of the Body servesothers inside and outside the Body. Jesus made clear there can be no spectatordisciples (Luke 9:23). To be a disciple is to serve (! Pet 4:10; Gal 5:13; Mark 10:42-45). Everyone needs to, minimally, be serving in at leastone ministry of the church. Many of us have the capacity to serve in two or more service roles. The key is to ask God where he is calling you to serve, and thenget with it.
Practical Commitment to Service Within the Body
- List of Church Service Roles (distributed by ushers)