A WISE BUILDER: MATTHEW 7:24-27

For almost two years, I have been working through the Sermon on the Mount. The following is chapter 16, A Wise Builder. Soon, I want to organize community groups in which I hope you will sign up to discuss the Sermon on the Mount together. Your teacher/facilitator will not be me but rather someone from our congregation that I have prepared to teach the material. 

             “Where do I go for answers to life’s most important questions?” And, “Is my source reliable?” —                                                                       Harold Lindsell

7—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.”

                                   BIBLICAL TRUTH AND ‘THE PUBLIC SQUARE’

            Progressive secularist anger now dominates the pubic square, to include numerous university campuses nation-wide. A common charge among progressives against the Christian faith is: “Since the Bible is an ancient, unchanging book, it is outdated and obsolete— The Bible is therefore incapable of providing solutions for the staggering moral-ethical complexities of the twenty-first century!”

             During a Spring evening at the La Salle Stewart Center on the Oregon State University campus, following Dominic Crossan’s discussion of the Bible, and other ancient spiritual writings (e.g., The Gospel of Thomas, The Kabbalah and The Urantia), a gentleman asked the progressive Roman Catholic New Testament scholar: “When is the Bible going to be updated and made relevant for present-day needs?”

             Tim Keller responds to this type of question by pointing out the assumption that lies behind it: those who charge that the Bible has been outdated since at least the Dark Ages usually assume their place in history is the ultimate, climatic point in human history—but it’s not. Keller continues to explain that critiques of the Bible, made in every age, pass with every age; they end up in the “dust bin of history within a generation of time!” But orthodox Christianity remains the same.

             Augustine’s City of God, Keller points out, was written 1,500 years ago. Augustine was defending the Christian faith against the cultural critiques of his day. A profound problem surfaces: When a person attempts to read Augustine’s City of God, they find it to be very challenging to read. Why? Because although the skeptics of Augustine’s day were all weighing in with their criticisms of the Bible and Christian faith, they are now so obsolete (even silly) that no one takes them seriously! But Augustine’s defense of historic Christianity remains the same; and the historic Christian faith is still embraced by literally billions of people.

             Keller acutely notes that 100 years from now, when the present-day critiques of Christian faith have passed, and been forgotten, orthodox Christianity will continue to remain the same—if you want to be up-to-date in every age, embrace orthodox Christianity and the living Word upon which it is founded!

             And therefore, Keller concludes: If you accept the authority of the Bible, you are embracing an enduring city and therefore, your beliefs will never be out-of-date[1] — You be “like a wise man who built his house on the rock”! 

                                                    LIVING IN THE WAY OF JESUS

7— 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.”

        John Mark Comer is a contemporary pastor living in a city wherein the corrosive effects of secularization have reached a tipping point. But Pastor Comer has chosen to join his city, Portland, Oregon, in its exile: “The task of the church in an exile-like setting is to rediscover the teachings of Jesus and the practices of the early church, then apply them to the corrosive soil of a Western secularized citylike Portland or San Francisco or New York or L.A.”[2]    

         The grand narrative of the Sermon on the Mount“… the teachings of Jesus and the practices of the early church” is lucidly expressed by N.T. Wright: “God’s future is arriving in the present, in the person and work of Jesus, and you can practice, right now, the habits of life which will find their goal in that coming future.”[3]

         Imagine with me a portrait of a covenant community in which the Sermon on the Mount has taken narrative form.

                                    GOD’S COVENANT PEOPLEA NEW HUMANITY

         The kingdom of God is not merely an idea but present reality for God’s covenant people. The daily lives of God’s covenant community are conditioned by both their connection to Jesus’ historical resurrection and their future imperishable, immortal and incorruptible resurrection. And this gives meaning to every ordinary day in the lives of the new humanity— God’s people live and walk in a “better righteousness.”

         The Sermon on the Mount has taken narrative form in a new humanity— And the sacredness of human life is at the core of their ethical lives and therefore, every human life from the moment of conception to the moment of death—  possesses equal moral value simply because it is human.     The Bride of Christ abides in Truth, Jesus, the Anointed One. Their mission is to join God in his mission and live as a counter-cultural movement, transforming culture through “acting justly, loving mercy” and “walking humbly,” that is, creating space, wherever they go for God to work through them so that they might be a preserving seasoning and beckoning light for a lawless culture in the process of being turned over to itself.    

                                                                       FORMATION

(1)   How does your life daily conform to the central teachings of the Sermon on the Mount?

(2)  Spiritual formation (discipleship) requires obedience from God’s people to the teachings of Jesus, what is your ministry, how are you salt for those whom God brings you into contact with?

(3) Reflect on the portrait of “God’s Covenant Community—A New Humanity” and discuss the central themes of the Sermon on the Mount that surface in the portrait. How do you see yourself in the portrait?

 

[1]  My paraphrase of Tim Keller’s argument is from a sermon on CD: Tim Keller, “The City to Come,” Hebrews 11:13-16; 13:10-16, Copy-Write Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York, NY. (Re: Contact for clarification in documenting Keller’s work: Clara Lee, Project Manager, Redeemer City to City, NY, NY 1001).

[2]  Paul J. Pastor, (Interview) “John Mark Comer, The Westside: Bridgetown,” Outreach Magazine.com, The 2016 Outreach 100, 33.

[3]  N.T. Wright, After You Believe, Why Christian Character Matters (New York, N.Y.: Harper-Collins Publishers, 2010), 103.