Rev. Don Bailey serves as associate pastor at Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Florida.
Good morning, good to see you this morning as we prepare to open God’s Word. I’m going to be preaching a very familiar passage. I was just talking to Dr. Tweeddale earlier about how I learned in seminary, as he did, you don’t ignore the great passages just because everyone says, like Philip Kinkopf did to me today when he asked me what I was preaching, he goes, “Oh yeah, I’ve heard that one before.” And I said, “Well good, we’re going hear this one again.” In Matthew’s Gospel chapter 7, and we will be looking at verses 24 through 27. I also wanted to say what an encouragement it is for me to see all of you, and I do see the various ages and generations and all that. And it’s such a great encouragement. My wife and I have a 27-year-old son and a 23-year-old daughter, and so every time I’m in a situation preaching and look out and realize that there are, you know, young men and women my own children’s age following the Lord Jesus Christ, it is always an encouragement to me, and so it is truly good to be here.
There is an old adage before we read God’s Word, that says, “To be forewarned is to be forearmed; to be prepared is half way to victory.” And it’s a very straightforward and easy to understand adage if you think about it. If we know that a threat is coming, then we are much better off than being caught by surprise. The Lord Jesus Christ is merciful, graceful in His teaching on the Sermon on the Mount because He concludes this great sermon, chapters 5 through 7, with a series of warnings that He might prepare the children of God, the people of God, those who will live out the Kingdom life as Jesus presents it in this great sermon. So, let’s stand if we would and hear this very brief passage. Jesus speaks with the utmost gravity here. Let us hear the words of the Savior, Matthew 7:24-27:
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.
The Psalmist says that God’s Word is a lamp unto his feet and a light unto his path and so, may God’s Word enlighten us this day through the power of his Holy Spirit. You may be seated.
Let’s pray together. Our gracious God, we thank you for the privilege of having your Word in our own language and for the many faithful men and women down through the ages who have been persecuted to translate this Word; to preserve it, to protect it, and for your Holy Spirit who has guarded this Word, that it would be for our edification in our growth and our building up this day. So, Lord, you teach us and help us to hear, we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
If you have a grandparent or, perhaps, even for some of you a great-grandparent or great, great-grandparent in their late 80’s, 90’s, maybe even 100 years old, you might know that they would be part of what is called, “The Builder Generation.” Now, we take all of this with a grain of salt, all of these sociological descriptions of the different generations, but I think it’s useful and helpful to think about some of the characteristics that have been used to describe this so-called “Builder Generation.” They would have been born in the 1910s and 1920s, approximately. And so, as very young children or even teenagers, young adults, they would have grown up in the Great Depression. They knew the insecurity of those days economically and provisionally. They would go on, both men and women, to fight in World War II and fight very valiantly and that major cataclysm that was the World War. As they would go on to employment, this generation has been described as being very loyal, many of them staying 30, 40, 50 years, you know, at the end, they would get that proverbial gold watch. Well, it was in their character to be that loyal but would use those emblems and be proud of those for sticking with one company for all of those years. As a matter of fact, they were predominantly, though not without exception, loyal to their husbands and wives. So, seldom was there the question of divorce for the Builder Generation. Having grown up in the Depression, they were frugal. They saved their money having known what it meant to be without. Some have said that the Builder Generation is truly the greatest generation.
Well, for someone who was born in the years known as the “Baby Boomer” years, I’ve sometimes been a little bit envious of the greatest generation, those builders. Maybe you’re not happy about being, you know, a Boomer, or a Gen X person, or Millennial, or in all those general descriptions. But the fact is that every generation is a builder generation as we listen to the words of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here we are reminded that every man and every woman builds a life, builds his or her life on some foundation, some meaning, in this very short time on earth that the Bible compares to a mere vapor, or like the grass that withers, or the flowers that fade as flesh. Here for a moment and then gone. All people build a life and Jesus reminds us of this as he uses a parable to categorize all people, really into two separate groups of people, those who build a house sensibly or wisely, and those who build a house foolishly or rashly. The scaffolding of life, one commentary on this passage by Liam Morris says, the scaffolding of life consists of the beliefs we hold with conviction, the words we speak with our lips, the deeds we perform with our hands, every thought we conceive with our minds, and every ambition or dream we cherish in our hearts. That’s paraphrased since I’ve added some of that, but very thought-provoking words. Have you ever wondered what might be said of you if speaking to a close friend or maybe one of your professors who have gotten to know you well, or a family member? Just what is he building, or what is she building upon? What is the foundation for their life and what scaffolding do you see? Is this a beautiful life? Is this a life that involves sacrifice for others, or are you seeing something being built that appears to be shaky, or perhaps even an eyesore in the presence of others? What do others hear in my words? What do people see in the deeds that I perform with my hands? What affections can people perceive who have gotten to know me fairly well? Notice how Jesus links words and deeds together in this passage, he says, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” And then in contrast in verse 26, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like the foolish man who built his house on the sand.” And so, we see the outset of this parable, two very different foundations.
And for the original listeners, they would know very well what Jesus was referring to. In the Ancient Middle East, and it is still true today, there would be dry river beds known as “wadis” and at certain times of the year, you would think that there would never be any water to appear in those dry river beds again. But then the rains would fall and these ditches, really wide ditches, would fill up as the rain would come down out of the mountains. It would be very fast flowing; so, if you built your house near these sand beds or loose gravel wadis, you would want to position it well, secure it well so that it wouldn’t be washed away, so that it wouldn’t be shaken. Very different builders in these two foundations, and I have to say that I understand, at least in the physical realm, something of the builder who built his house on sand. The one who did what was expedient, what was faster, easier, didn’t take as much sacrifice. I grew up in a landscape and nursery business, and my father had maybe 8 to 10 different truck, trailers, tractors, all of those things, forklifts. And I don’t think there was a day, or at least not a week, that would go by where we wouldn’t get ready to go to work and there would be a low-tire or a flat tire. You know, we are running around construction sites and nails are thrown everywhere and all of those kinds of things, and so, we lived with flat-tires. There were two ways to fix those, you can go by the tire shop, you can wait in line, maybe take an hour or two for someone to get around to patching that tire, or you could buy a new one if we really wanted to put the money out. But our solution, most days, would be to drop by a 7-Eleven, walk in there to the little section with auto supplies, and we’d get a can of something called, back then, “Fix a Flat.” And “Fix a Flat,” was 99-cents a can back in the 70’s when I was in high school, and we’d just shake that can, go over to those tires, plug it in, and we’re off and running maybe for a day or two, and then we’d see that white chemical oozing out of there and the tire going back down low. “Well, could get it fixed permanently or… well, there’s more ‘Fix a Flat’.” And we tended to operate a lot like that back then.
And that seems to be the difference here; the one very thoughtful builder, drilling down, digging down below the sand and gravel, and making sure that his foundation for his house would be something that would last through all of the testing and the trials. And then the other builder, doing that which is comfortable and easy, and not that far-seeing or very thoughtful. I thought about how we, as a culture and a society, we lean so much into that “Fix a Flat” mentality. Very often, when we are really struggling in life, as so many people that I’ve pastored over the years would say, “Well, my solution would be, you know, I’d take this pill,” or “I look at these photos once in a while, makes me feel a little bit better for a time.” Maybe someone has a loved one who has a problem, and we say, “Well, I’ve got enough money to take care of it now.” Kick the can down the road so to speak. Someone puts us under pressure and instead of telling them the truth, we give them a convenient explanation, and say, “You know, we’ll really worry about bringing the truth around and to this at a later time, it’s just not convenient or easy.”
Two different foundations, two different builders, but really the same set of trials or afflictions come. We see that in verse 25, “And the rain fell.” Trouble comes, right? Trouble always comes in life. “The rain fell, and floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that home.” Both builders face testing of their homes, through trials, afflictions in the rain, the floods, and the wind that come and beat upon that house. You know, Jesus is not afraid to categorize in His Sermon on the Mount in chapter 7 verse 13, He says, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
The vast majority of people, it would seem, follow the pathway of outward and external, not only solutions but also appearances; outward and external performance without a humble reliance upon God in and through faith in Jesus Christ alone, but rather, of that which appears good to man. Jesus spoke of hypocrites in His sermon who do all the right things. If you think about it, it’s good to pray; they prayed, but they stood on street corners so that everyone would hear them and notice them. They gave alms to the poor, that’s a good thing to do. It’s good to show mercy, but they blow their trumpets first so that everyone would see. These hypocrites fasted and yet they contorted their faces so that everyone would say, “Look, look how pious he is, look how religious that Pharisee is for his suffering through his fasting.” And I think it really is the broad way here that Jesus refers to, to do things for external reputation, for that which really makes a good show in the presence of others. A sandy foundation, getting back to our text, is a life that is built on what other people think.
If you think about it, you can build a house of sand even as a student here in Bible college. You can go to the seminary that was spoken of early, that really fine seminary, just like this fine Bible college, and you can be building for external appearances. You get up in the morning and take a dose of “Fix a Flat” religiosity, you smile at all your professors, you study for your test, but then never truly depend upon the Lord Jesus Christ or trust Him by faith. You and I know how to read all the books, don’t we? Most of us here capable of doing that, show up on time to class, we smile at our professors and our fellow students, make good grades, and do all of those things, yet not truly trust the Lord Jesus Christ and build upon the rock that He is. Build your house on the rock– we build our house on the sand, and Jesus says, “Trials and testing and affliction will certainly come.”
You know that, don’t you? No matter what age you are. You know, I pastor here at Saint Andrew’s Chapel and if you attend here, you know that this sanctuary fills up a couple of times on Sunday morning. And a large number of our congregants, you know, I wouldn’t even think half anymore because we keep getting younger and younger, but a large number face health afflictions and trials pretty much on a weekly basis. And it’s not just those who are older but many of us who are younger know what it is to face the winds of health affliction, or financial, or provisional trials and testing. I know, when you go to Bible college or seminary like I did, I mean it does cost something and you’re trying to work maybe two or three part-time jobs or maybe one very demanding one. And those winds provide quite a test for us.
Sometimes we face the testing of spiritual doubt and affliction when we may find that our flesh leads us into sin. And we even shock ourselves and wonder, “How did I say that, how could I do such a thing to my best friend, what kind of Christian am I?” It seems to be the situation of the Psalmist in 130 who says, “Lord, out of the depths I cry out to you, O Lord, hear my voice, let your ears be attentive to my cries for mercy. If you kept a record of sin, O Lord, who can stand? But with you there is forgiveness, and therefore you are feared.”
All kinds of tests come our way and we could innumerate many, many more. And Jesus says that if we build upon the rock, on a sure foundation, we’ll be able to withstand in those days, and on sand we will not, as we shall see in a moment. Jesus refers to his words and doing them, and I think with many commentators, he refers not just to the parable he gives us but to all of the Sermon on the Mount. In fact, all of the words that He spoke in His ministry; Jesus refers to His words, but His words point to His person. For Jesus is certainly the Rock in the parable and those who put His words into practice are those who understand that He is indeed the greater Moses, that He is the King who is inaugurating His Kingdom. And those put their trust in Him, faith in Christ alone, are those who not only hear His words, but hear and do His words out of gratitude for salvation by His grace. Not perfectly, as we live these lives out but by the power of His Spirit, but substantially, honestly, depending on Him, and resting on His Holy Spirit.
As Isaiah the prophet says of the Messiah, in Isaiah 28:16, “Therefore thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: “Whoever believes will not be in haste.”’” And then the apostle Peter, sighting Isaiah, says, “Behold I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” Two foundations, similar set of testing or affliction in the winds, and the storms, and the floods, and two very different results, v. 25b of the house of the rock “But it did not fall because it had been founded on the rock.” And then in v. 27, for the house on sand, “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house and it fell and great was the fall of it.” But of those who rest on the Lord Jesus Christ, knowing Him by faith, resting in Him, trusting in Him, doing that work that flows out of faith, and dependence on Him there is a glorious outcome.
Think of Psalm 46 for a moment, you don’t have to turn there, but I want to read this because the Psalmist in the Old Testament knows what it means to rest upon God as His foundation:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though it’s waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. There is a river whose streams make glad he city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; He utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. ‘Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!’ The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” And then here as the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah prophesied, the great King, the Prophet greater than Moses says, “Put your trust in me and I am that rock and I am that foundation that will endure through every test and every trial.”
When we think about doing that, I think sometimes we think, “Well, I must do extraordinary things if I’m going to build upon the rock that is Jesus.” I know, before I went to seminary, I thought really that I was going to be too special to be a pastor. I mean, it just seemed like the most boring thing I could possibly think of is to go serve as a pastor at a local church, so I had read Francis Schaeffer, “The Philosopher Theologian,” throughout my college and graduate school years, and after years of working, I thought, “I’ll go to seminary and I’m probably going to be like a Francis Schaeffer. Maybe I’ll set up some sort of think-tank or do something like that and ‘wow’ people with my apologetics and all of those things.” And you know, I was about halfway through seminary and I started realizing, you know, I’m pretty smart but I’m not really that smart. There are students here that have greater academic gifts and languages, or maybe apologetics or something like that, and then over time, you know, God started leading me down a path into opportunities to serve in a pastoral setting. And I didn’t want to do it at first, I thought this is just far too ordinary, not extraordinary enough. But I want to tell you today, God uses very ordinary means to strengthen us as we rest on the foundation that is Jesus Christ.
God uses ordinary means. He uses His Word, He uses our prayers informed by His Holy Spirit who translates those, the practice of corporate worship, and the partaking of the Lord’s Supper, the right use of those sacraments, the encouraging and building up of one another. And so, sometimes you might think, “Well, I don’t know that I’m going to have an extraordinary kind of ministry,” and let that discourage you. But think of this: God’s Son labored as a humble carpenter throughout most of His growing up years and His early adult years before His public ministry. He grew up in Nazareth of Galilee, that despised land known as being a land full of hicks and uncouth people, looked down upon by the elite in Jerusalem. God delights in ordinary means and Jesus lived, until His public ministry, a life of building and using His hands. Jesus knows all about the building of homes. Think of 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul says, “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what was foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; and God chose what is low and despised in the world, even the things that are not, to bring to nothing things are, so that no human being may boast in the presence of God.”
As you have these tests and papers coming due, as I heard Dr. Tweeddale allude to earlier, how ordinary it might sometimes feel to have to study and construct a good sentence in a paper and prepare to memorize what you need, and to put it into longer memory, those very important tools that God will use. It’s not always exciting, but God delights in using your studies and your preparation as He builds His Kingdom through His Spirit. Let your boast, this day, let all of our boasts, be in Jesus Christ through faith alone, the only sure rock upon which to stand.
Study hard, God uses good theology with soft hearts as He pours forth His gospel into all the nations. Be passionate but don’t rest in your passion, rest in Jesus Christ. Study hard but don’t rest in your knowledge in pride, but, rather, see it as something God will use. Live each day as a repentant child of God, confessing your sins and turning to the cross, but don’t rest in the volume of your tears; rather rest upon Jesus Christ, the rock, the sure foundation. God says my Son is that sure foundation and when everything else shakes –and there is great tumult in the world, and there is to be sure a lot of tumult and a lot of shaking– keep your eyes on Christ alone. Let Him be your joy today and throughout these coming weeks, and even years. Let Him be your great consolation. God’s Word says you’ll never be put to shame and you’ll never be disappointed in Him as you rest in Him. Let’s pray together.
Our gracious God, your Word says that the devil is a roaring lion but that we should resist him and stand firm together knowing that our brothers and sisters are under great persecution and affliction, as well. And Lord, help us all to rest on the foundation that is Jesus Christ, His finished work, His righteous life, His substitutionary death, His burial, and His resurrection. The power of His resurrection and know that He is now ascended and is ruling and reigning at your right hand. And so, Lord, help us to find your joy this day, and your peace. I do pray you would give wisdom and strength to every student that is here and to all of us who hear the words of Jesus Christ, that we would indeed make our delight in Him, the priority and joy of our lives. And we thank you for the security that we have in You, knowing that You never leave us nor forsake us. We pray this is Jesus’ name. Amen.
Transcripts are lightly edited.