A WELL-BUILT LIFE
1. Anybody who listens to the news these days may understandably wonder if there is anything about how life works we can count on.
a. Financial institutions fail and mainstay industries are uncertain.
b. A system of government based on private property and free enterprise and personal liberty evolves.
c. Family structures which have sustained civilizations throughout recorded history are set aside.
2. That makes one of Jesus’ boldest claims about life all the more astonishing – and necessary.
a. Though it is so familiar our children sing it, it is also so profound that theologian James Denney called this saying “the most solemn and overpowering of all the words of Jesus.”
b. It’s the conclusion of his “sermon on the plain” (cf. Lk. 6:17). Here is what Jesus said....(reading of the text).
c. There is a life that is so well built that no flood can shake it. It’s the life we all want and need. The most basic step toward it is found here.
1. A parable is used to illustrate the point.
a. Each of us is building a house.
i. More specifically, everyone who hears the words of Jesus is like a person who is building a house in the sense that each of us is constructing a life.
ii. Every day, every single one of us is building the house of our life. Clovis Chappell wrote, “We are building by everything that we do. We are building by every thought we think. We are building by every word that we speak, every dream that we dream, every picture that we hang upon the walls of our imagination, every ambition that we cherish.” (The Sermon on the Mount, 218-219).
iii. You are designing the character you will live in, developing the self you live with, deciding the destiny you will live for.
b. Floods will arise against it.
i. Notice that storms broke loose on both houses in the parable. They were alike in this. It wasn’t a question of if a flood would arise; it was a matter of when.
ii. Just as a sudden cloudburst at the head of a wash in ancient Palestine could turn the dry wash into a raging torrent, there will be “rain on roof, river on foundation, wind on walls” of every life (Bruce, cited by Stott, Christian Counter Culture, 208-209).
iii. Since life isn’t like a secluded, peaceful valley, and since judgement isn’t serene either, anyone should build in view of the great tests which come to everyone.
c. The foundation will make the difference.
i. The crucial difference between the two houses in the Lord’s illustration was in their foundations: the well-built one was founded upon the rock, but the other was just built on the ground without a foundation.
ii. That fateful difference was made obvious only when the storm bore down and the flood arose: one could not be shaken and stood like a refuge through it all, while the other fell immediately in a colossal heap of ruins.
iii. The point is that security in life depends on whether that life is built on a foundation that will sustain it through whatever comes.
2. The issue is what that foundation is.
a. Jesus claims that a life which has putting his words into practice as its master-principle is well built.
i. Notice that the contrast is between “everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them” and “the one who hears and does not do them.” The first is the man who digs deep and lays the foundation on the rock; the other is like a house with nothing to support it.
ii. Jesus is calling his hearers to regard his words as authority and to do them as way of life. What a bold declaration he is making of his right to be heard and of the value of his teaching!
iii. He is saying that one who is bound by doing what he taught will have a life that will stand. He is saying that one who has neglected to do what he says, no matter how diligent he has been in other ways, will fall: his life will end in ruin. What if anyone else were to make a claim like that? (Cf. Barclay, And Jesus Said, 218)
b. Jesus consistently emphasized the importance of our doing what he taught.
i. Luke 8:21 – “But he answered them, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.’” (Notice the implied claim that the words he taught were the word of God.)
ii. Luke 11:28 – “But he said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!’”
iii. A person who makes it his practice to do what he has heard the Lord says will find that his life has the foundation it needs when the floods arise and break against him.
3. Why is hearing and doing such a big thing?
a. It indicates genuine trust in the one who is speaking.
i. If I really believe in the One I am hearing, if I am actually convinced that he is Lord, I will act on what I have heard.
ii. 1 John 1:4 – “Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
iii. James 2:17 – “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
b. It reflects personal integrity within one’s own life.
i. “Lord” means “the master,” “the one whose servants we are,” “the one we’ve promised to obey.” (Wright, Simply Christian, 68)
ii. Notice that it is repeated in addressing him, as if to emphasize the claim of devotion to him.
iii. If there’s to be any integrity in the life I am building, what I call him and what I know and what I do have to match.
c. It suggests depth of character, some long-range thoughtfulness about life.
i. The man who dug deep and laid his foundation on the rock was not so shallow and reckless as to think he could find a shortcut to security.
ii. He had the discipline to do something other than what was easiest and most satisfying for the moment: while his house was still a dream, he invested hours and hours of labor into carving out something that would last.
iii. Someone wrote, “They may not be exciting or quick, but the slow growth of spiritual values will ride out many storms....Personal character, friendship, and marriage cannot be built on selfishness... . Shortsighted decisions made from fear or convenience will not bring growth. Doing the word gives shelter, solid character, good relationships, stability and growth.” (Twenty-first Century Christian quarterly on the Parables, 66-68)
4. A life like this is well-built.
a. It is confident in its tone.
i. One who trusts the Lord enough to seek to do what he says also respects him enough to accept his verdict on such a way of life: “when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.”
ii. Respect for the Lord’s word is not about knowing everything that will happen in a lifetime, or being assured that it will all be good and enjoyable.
iii. It is about the confidence that it is always good and right to do what we know the Lord says, and that such a way of life will stand any test.
b. It is blessed in its doing.
i. Intending to do what we have heard the Lord say does not produce the legalistic insecurity of wondering whether I’ve done enough to survive, but in a walk with the Lord which enriches life.
ii. John 13:17 – “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”
iii. James 1:25 – “But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”
1. It would be hard to exaggerate the importance of the choice which is before us in the Lord’s brief parable.
a. One building is secure while the other is overwhelmed with disaster.
b. Far more momentous than the choice even of a life-work or of a life-partner is the choice about life itself.
c. On which foundation are we going to build? (Cf. Stott, 211)
2. Edward Mote wrote our song “On Christ The Solid Rock I Stand.”
a. He was a man who gave up his carpentry at age 55 to serve as a preacher.
b. After 21 years of ministry, his health began to fail. He said, “...I am nearing port. The truths I have been preaching, I am now living upon and they’ll do very well to die upon...” (Robert J. Morgan, Then Sings My Soul, 111)
c. Let us, too, dig deep and build lay our foundation on the rock by doing what we know the Lord’s has said.