We live in a time where it is difficult to keep up with all the information that is available for us to read, listen to or watch. The question I ask my friends is what are you doing with all that information? Most of them reply, “nothing.” Our heads are “stuffed” with information and I find that many of us are trying to “think” our way towards transformation without acting on the information received. Information alone doesn’t equal transformation.
I recently enjoyed a sermon I heard about the Sermon on the Mount. Here is what I gleaned from that message. Jesus ends the Sermon on the Mount with a series of warnings. Here is the final one before he ends perhaps the most important sermon ever.
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 the 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 against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
“Puts them into practice” in the Greek is translated “acts on them, follows, obeys.” We are told this is what the wise person does. The foolish person does not act on them, obey or follow.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read this passage and just skipped through it because of my familiarity with it. Upon deeper reflection, I realize there is a wise person and a foolish person. And that Jesus does not contrast good and bad in this story but thoughtful and foolish. Lastly, “house” is really a metaphor for life.
A wise person builds their life on the foundation of Jesus teaching and puts it into practice. The foolish person hasn’t thought about life all that much but hears Jesus words and doesn’t do anything with this information. Maybe these folks are too busy amusing themselves to death, trying to climb the corporate ladder or attempting to earn another degree.
Here are some questions I asked myself. Where am I in this story? Am I the wise person, the foolish person or somewhere in the middle? And where am I at in “practicing” His teaching from this sermon? I’m told to be salt and light, not to murder, or to commit adultery, love my enemies, give to the needy and not to worry. That last one along with a few others might be a problem. And, lastly, what happens when the flood comes?
The flood is a word picture of some kind of hardship. For example, the loss of a job, a negative diagnosis, the loss of a loved one, prolonged anxiety or depression, or a long-term relationship that ends in separation.
The flood will come! Yet please notice that the wise person and the foolish person will go through it. It will reveal what your life is built on.
It would be good to ask our selves is my life built on greed, materialism, achievement, being popular and well liked or my appearance? Is life only about how many likes you get on Facebook? All this as the Scripture tells us will fall with a great crash!
Early in my tenure here at The River Church Community, I began to slowly unravel and fall into a depressive state. I had forgotten that transition could lead to emotional upheaval in one’s life. Not sure if it was homesickness or unresolved grief but I wasn’t doing well emotionally. Leaving home was like leaving my whole identity behind. I was starting all over and at least from my perspective, it wasn’t going well. I didn’t know anyone and it felt like no one appreciated my gifts and talents.
Although it was a step forward developmentally for me the people I was surrounded by seemed to be at a higher level of understanding than me. My self-esteem was floundering and that which I had built my identity on was shaken.
The people I had trusted for safety and security were no longer available. I had to draw on internal resources and three different men who I barely knew. They helped me challenge the negative, self-critical thinking that so frequently accompanies depression. Challenged in my relationship with Jesus I pressed into His word and into Him.
I survived the rain, the rising of the stream and the powerful wind. Drawing on that inner resource of truth I had ingested all those years of following Jesus, seeking out others for the life-giving community I needed and sharing with them honestly how I felt helped me persevere and survive the flood. My foundation was rocked but somehow I survived. You should know that as a people pleaser I was always “fine” and never shared any negative feelings or emotions with others. So this was a huge breakthrough for me to be vulnerable to another.
This story about the wise and foolish person hopefully produces within each one of us a healthy fear to at least think about what our life is built on.
One of the things I noticed about the Sermon on the Mount is that Jesus begins and ends with the word practice. Matthew 5:19 Jesus tells us, “…Whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Same word as Matthew 7, which means, “act on them, follow, obey.”
As we “ask, seek and knock” Jesus animates us to live this out. This takes more than listening to a sermon once a week and singing some songs. Remember, information alone doesn’t bring about transformation.
Your house is your life and everybody builds a life.