January 15, 2023. Sermon Title: Building on the Rock

First Mennonite Church

January 15, 2023

Building On the Rock

Text: Matthew 7:21-27

A few years ago, Bud gave me a book of daily devotionals for the entire year. It is signed: Gus Toevs. In it there is a story about a wealthy man who developed a great trust on one particular contractor he used for all his building projects. One day, the wealthy man said, “Hey Don, I am going for an extended trip abroad, but in the meantime, I would like you to build a house for me on this piece of property I just bought. I have deposited this amount of money in the bank for you to draw from, which should be enough for your pay and for all the materials needed for the house. I have come to trust you on your choice of quality materials you always use for me; therefore, I do not have to worry about not being around to oversee the project.” The wealthy man left and Don began the project. But, shortly after Don started the project, in his mind he began to wrestle with the idea of saving money and increasing his profit. So, he started to lower his standard for the materials he used for the house. “My boss will not know the difference in the quality of material I will use once everything is new and painted,” Don said to himself. After some months on the project, the house was finished and the wealthy patron came back. After looking at the newly built house and praising Don for the remarkable job he had done, the wealthy man said, “Don, I am so grateful for everything you have built for me over the years and I thought that my way to express towards you my gratitude is by giving you this house. Here are the keys. The house is yours to live in.” You cannot imagine how great Don’s disappointment was.

Next Sunday, we will be concluding our church’s 125th anniversary celebrations. The fact that FMCPR has been able to endure and to serve these many years and to be looking forward into what the Lord has for its future, are indicative that it was founded on the Rock. When Reverend Hege and Rev. Wiebe in 1897 determined to form a congregation, they did so on the teachings of Jesus Christ as its foundation. Since then, former pastors, church leaders as well as church members have striven to remain faithful and to continue building on Christ as the only foundation.

As we look forward into the God’s future for this congregation, let us determine to keep on building on Jesus and his words. Let us not cut corners for the sake of expediency or personal convenience. Let us remember that we are leaving a legacy to the next generation, thus it is incumbent of us to build diligently. Therefore, let us be once again reminded of what Jesus says about this enterprise of building a house that will stand not only the test of time, storms, and challenges, but that will last into eternity.

Read Matthew 7:21-27.

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 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, in your name, perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

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. 25 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. 26 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. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” [1]

Max De Pree, the well-known businessman and leadership author, is fond of saying that beliefs shape practices. If you want to know what you truly believe, you only need to examine your behaviors.

What De Pree is pointing out is that we all have a set of assumed beliefs. That is, we think we affirm certain things. However, what we might not be aware of is that our real beliefs are revealed through our behaviors. A person can say, “I believe in truth, it is a core commitment of my life.” But in difficult circumstances the same person may lie to gain an advantage. Their real belief or core value is not truth, it is something else.

That is exactly what Jesus says in verse 21. Calling Jesus “Lord, Lord,” requires complete submission to him as master. Jesus is not Lord if the one who calls “Lord” does not obey his words. Thus, Jesus predicts that on the last day, on the day of judgement, many will claim to have called him, “Lord, Lord” and will claim to have performed wonders in his name, expecting to be allowed entrance into his kingdom. But Jesus warns that to those who only call him Lord, but do not do the will of his Father, he will flatly and plainly deny knowing them and will even call them “evildoers.”

The shocking and rude awakening many will have on that day is the tragic consequence of the inconsistency between words and deeds, between what they say and what they do. The idea that Jesus will turn away many who claimed him as Lord and Savior because they failed to adhere to his words is a strong warning that cannot be emphasized enough.   

Then Jesus moves to illustrate the difference between the one who hears his words and acts upon them and the one who hears the word but fails to act on them. Jesus uses two builders and two houses. One builder is wise—phronimos and the other foolish—moros. The one house has its foundation on the rock, while the other sits on the sand. The one house stands the rain and the wind, while the other comes crashing down.

There is something we need to see in this story. Both builders went through the troubles of building a house. The one who hears and acts upon what he/she hears is like a wise man who builds on the rock. He or she has the knowledge of where to build so that when the storms come his/her house will remain secure and will survive the winds and the rain. The one who builds on the rock knows that although storms are not a common threat in the Judean weather patterns, nonetheless, time will come when there will be storms. He builds with the future in mind. He knows that what he does today, has consequences tomorrow. The wise man sets the foundation of his house on the rock, knowing that the house durability is long-term.

However, the foolish man did not perceive that the beautiful and clear sandy spot he chose to build on was actually the course where flash floods pass through. In his haste and short sightedness, he built oblivious of what was to come in the future. Houses are built to last. And the house built on the sand will encounter the same challenges and storms as the one built on the rock. However, the foolish man’s house will crumble under force of the wind and the rain.

Jesus’ comparison here between the one who obeys his words, versus the one who does not obey them, is that the one who obeys recognizes that obedience to Jesus’ words have eternal consequences. Thus, the one who hears and acts on the word heard reflect the wisdom that is from above, as the apostle James says (3:13, 17).

In Proverbs we read:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
    and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
For through wisdom your days will be many,
    and years will be added to your life. (9:10, 11).[2]

The difference between the wise and foolish builder was not a mere intellectual matter. It was whether one has the fear of the Lord or not. It is whether Jesus’ words are taken seriously or not.  

We are building today. The house we are building will either stand the test of time and the challenges to come or it will not. The house we are building today is not only for us, but for those who are coming behind us. Let us hear the admonition of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians:

But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their 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 person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames. (1Corinthians 3:10b-15)[3].

So, let us recommit ourselves to take the words of Jesus seriously. Let us be reminded that our attitude towards Jesus’ words has eternal consequences. So, let us renew our commitment to the study and obey of the Word of God. Let us be constant in prayer. Let us support one another. Let us continue building on Jesus, the Rock and only foundation for the church. Amen!

Pastor Romero

[1] Matthew 7:21-27 (New International Version)

[2] Proverbs 9:10, 11 (NIV)

[3] 1Corinthians 3:10b-15 (New International Version)