Two men, the number is both important and irrelevant. It is important because there had to be two, one would not have been enough. It’s irrelevant because those two men represent every human being who has ever lived. Two men, the number is both important and irrelevant.
The story is a familiar one to those who grew up in Sunday School or Vacation Bible School. Two men decided to build homes; an activity as common then as it is today. The need for shelter spans and crosses cultural and time lines. For some it is the need to keep out the cold for others it is to protect them against the heat but for all of mankind there is an innate need to have a home of some kind. A tent, an igloo, a hovel or a palace they all do the same thing they provide privacy and protection for those who occupy them.
And so, Jesus has come to the end of the Sermon on the Mount and as he continues to explain the Kingdom of God, he reaches out to embrace a metaphor that would have been very familiar to him as a carpenter, the construction of a new home.
Our theme this spring has been; After the But Comes the Truth. And we’ve been looking at various passages of scripture where the truth is revealed after the but.
And we’ve discovered that even though it’s a really small word, only three letters, that it is the hinge that swings the meaning of a sentence.
For example, it was Craig
Groeschel who wrote, “The answer isn’t more
time but a greater awareness of the time we have.” After the but, comes the truth.
_________ read our scripture this morning, and in this narrative the but comes in the middle of the story.
What we have is the story of two men. And as a part of the story there are a number of things that the men have in common as well as areas where they differ.
First of all, they both built homes. Now remember this is a metaphor and Jesus doesn’t play games here he is very upfront about what he is trying to explain, and he begins by setting the guidelines of the metaphor.
What the men are building are their lives. They are taking what they have learned from Jesus on the Sermon on the Mount and they are deciding what to do with it.
So, both of the men built houses and we know absolutely nothing about the houses they built. We don’t know if they were big houses or little houses, we have no idea about the quantity or quality of the material that was used in their houses.
For all practical purposes the houses were the same.
In most cases Christ Followers are very similar to those who don’t follow Christ.
There are no glaring differences, instead we discover that for the most part those who don’t know Jesus are very like those who do know Jesus.
With one critical difference of course, they don’t know Jesus. After all they are our neighbours, our friends and our loved ones. Tom Rainer in his book, “Surprising insights from the unchurched says “Most of the unchurched are concerned for their families. Their moral values are not radically different from ours. They work alongside of us, and their children and our children play together. Some of the unchurched are the teachers of our children. The unchurched live in our neighbourhoods and carry on friendly conversations with us. They often carry the same financial burdens we do, and they are just as patriotic as we are. And many of the unchurched live in the same home we do: they are our family members.”
The houses were the same, but what wasn’t the same were the foundations that the houses were built upon. Life was the same and it brought the same storms to both men, what wasn’t the same was their foundation’s ability to stand up to the storm.
I remember the spring that we built the church. I had the opportunity to stand in the snow with two engineers, right about where I am standing now, and watched as they used a little excavator to dig holes and what we discovered was that down about a metre was bedrock. Which wasn’t all that surprising considering the amount of bedrock there is in this area.
And it wasn’t even a matter for concern because our building isn’t designed with a basement; it’s sitting on a slab. If it had been designed with a basement that would have led to a whole series of challenges.
When the excavator operator told us that he was at bedrock and couldn’t dig any deeper the first thought that went through my mind was a scripture and not just any scripture it was Matthew 16:18 . . . upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.
But Jesus wasn’t talking about the church here, he was talking about our individual lives. What is the foundation that we have built our lives on?
So that begs the question: what does Jesus mean when he says that, as Christians, we are to build our lives on the rock?
Most of us who live in Hammonds Plains know some of the challenges of actually building on rock when you are putting in a foundation.
While there is no basement under Cornerstone under the platform is a 11 x 11 four foot deep well that holds our baptistry. And it took two weeks with a rock chipper to get rid of the bedrock. On the other hand, we know this building isn’t going anywhere because it is firmly built on the rock.
But what does it mean for us individually to build our lives on the rock?
Well time and time again the scripture uses “The Rock” as a metaphor for God and His unchanging nature. The first time was in Genesis 49:24 But his bow remained taut, and his arms were strengthened by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob, by the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel.
But it certainly wasn’t the only time it was used Deuteronomy 32:4 He (God) is the Rock; his deeds are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is!
And Psalm 19:14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
The metaphor of God as our Rock is used throughout the scripture. So, spiritually, as Christians this would imply that to build on the rock means to build on God, but what does that mean?
Unfortunately, not everyone who calls themselves a Christian has built their life on God. They may have built their lives on a religious commitment or an allegiance to a local church, but their lives are not built on God and his principles.
And that’s something we need to be careful of because it would become so easy for our vision to shift from God and his Kingdom to this building and all that’s involved here.
So, if we go back to our original scripture Jesus is telling his listeners that the rock that they needed to build their lives upon was found in his sermon. Even those of us with short attention spans can usually remember what was just said. So, what are some of the rocks that we should be building our church upon?
Early in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus made this statement Matthew 5:17-18 “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved.
The first thing we need to build upon is 1) The Rock of the Word
If we are going to have a strong spiritual foundation it needs to be established on the word of God.
In 2019 it’s easy to decide that we don’t agree with this and we don’t agree with that and differing opinions are often valid. But we need to stay grounded in the book. Otherwise we become like the people of Israel in Judges 17:6 In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.
The Bible is not just a great story, it’s not just a religious text this is the word of God.
And when we start explaining away stories from the Old Testament by saying “This wasn’t an actual event it is just an analogy.” Or saying, “Jesus didn’t really mean it that way.” Or “You have to understand what the Bible is really trying to say.” Then we are on shaky ground.
And what happens is, if you can’t accept that Noah escaped the flood in an ark, or that David killed Goliath with a sling shot or that a giant fish swallowed Jonah then pretty soon you can’t accept that Jesus was born of a virgin or rose from the dead.
It was Augustine who wrote, “If you believe what you like in the Gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the Gospel you believe, but yourself.”
Which is why when questions about morality come up and people say, “The bible doesn’t say anything about our sexual behaviour or . . . “ and you can fill in the blank, what they are really saying is “I don’t believe what the bible says about,. . .” again you can fill in the blank, and what they are really saying is: “I don’t believe what the bible says.”
Paul wrote to a young preacher named Timothy and part of his second letter to Timothy contained these words. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.
Is God’s word an important part of your life as a believer?
We did some neat things when we were building this building. We had those who worshipped with us at the time write their favourite scriptures on the floor and the framing of the building before carpet and gyprock were put on.
We asked people to write the promises of God’s word that meant the most to them, the verses that have gotten them through the tough times and reminded them of God’s faithfulness.
There is a hymn we sing at the Berkeley that says “Standing on the promises that cannot fail, When the storms of doubt and fear assail, By the living word of God I shall prevail, Standing on the promises of God.” And in this room, you are surrounded by and standing on the promises from God’s word.
And in the month before we celebrated our first service, I played the entire bible through in this room on CD. Every word of the Old Testament and New Testament has been read aloud in this room.
But those things won’t mean anything unless we determine in our hearts that we will remain committed to God’s word at Cornerstone Wesleyan Church. That the word of God will be a central part of who we are in our preaching our teaching and our worship.
And that needs to carry over to each one of us personally, that our Christians lives will be grounded in God’s word. Not in popular opinion, or social opinion or our own opinion but in God’s word.
And the only way you will be able to be grounded in the bible is if you read the bible.
So, we start with the rock of scripture, what next?
One of the most familiar portions of the Sermon on the Mount is found in Matthew 5:13-14 “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.
When Jesus started the story of the two builders, he makes two statements. The first is found in Matthew 7:24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, l. . . “
The second is found two verses later in Matthew 7:26 “But anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it is , . . . “
So the second rock is the 2) The Rock of Obedience It’s not enough to know what the scriptures say and what Jesus taught if we don’t embrace it and live it out.
How we are viewed as Christians is not simply based on what we believe but also on how we behave. If you are a believer, a follower of Christ, a Christian then there are certain behaviours that should be evidenced in your life and certain behaviours that shouldn’t be evidenced in your life.
After Jesus told his listeners that they should act as “salt” and ‘light” in their communities he spoke about things like, anger and hatred, lust and adultery, lying and holding grudges.
Throughout the New Testament we are reminded of this time and time again with statements like Ephesians 5:8-9 For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.
And Galatians 5:24-25 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
It’s so unfortunate that when preachers try to confront some Christians about their behaviour the person bristles and demands “How dare you judge me?” Actually, it’s kind of easy because the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 5:12 It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning.
And Jesus stressed the importance of our behaviour in Matthew 7:17-18 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. And then he finishes up by saying Matthew 7:20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.
People outside the church know when believers aren’t behaving the way they are supposed to be, they even have a special word for people like that. It’s hypocrite.
And so Jesus tells us Matthew 5:16 “In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” In other words, be salt and light.
If there is one portion of the Sermon on the Mount that is familiar to people of all Christian traditions it is the Lord’s Prayer. And three times Jesus uses the phrase “When you pray.” Not “If you pray” but “When you pray.” Which might indicate that he expects his people to pray.
And so, if we are going to build our Christian life on the rock it also needs to be 3) The Rock of Prayer.
Too often we elevate prayer to some lofty level that has to be done at a specific time, using specific words.
It was Charles Spurgeon wrote, “True prayer is neither a mere mental exercise nor a vocal performance. It is far deeper than that – it is a spiritual transaction with the Creator of Heaven and Earth.” And if that sounds too deep for you, Billy Graham said the same thing simpler when he said, “Prayer is simply a two-way conversation between you and God.”
When you are in a relationship with someone, you communicate with them. And without communication there can be no relationship.
And prayer isn’t just a 911 help line that you dial up when the kids are sick, or you are out of work, or the car won’t start.
It is a regular connection with God. Maybe when you first get up in the morning, or before you to bed at night, or maybe it’s a conversation that takes place throughout the day.
The bible tells us in Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.
And the word of God promises us in James 5:16 . . .The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
You say that you don’t know what to pray about. When I first became a believer, someone told me to use the acronym ACTS, Adoration, confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication.
Begin by telling God how much he means to you, confess the things you have done wrong, give thanks for your life and then ask for the things you need.
We have asked people at Cornerstone to set their phones for 2:20 as a reminder to pray for Cornerstone. I have three different reminders on my phone to remember to pray for certain things. They are reminders to pray for our denominational leaders, our global church and Cornerstone. Do I always pray for those people when the reminder sounds? Nope but I pray a lot more for them then I did before I set the reminders.
And then Jesus said Matthew 5:43-44 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbour’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!
We need to build our Christian life on the 4) The Rock of Love. It still sounds a little bizarre today, love your enemies, and we’ve had two thousand years to get used to it.
I wonder what people thought when they heard it for the first time? “Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!”
If we are going to build your life on the foundation that Jesus was talking about it will have to be built on love.
Jesus tells us that love is the reason he came John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
And love is why Jesus died on a cross and love is why he rose again, because of his love for you, and for me and for our loved ones and for our . . .enemies.
And it doesn’t matter what else we profess to have in our Christian lives, if we are missing love we are missing the most important thing of all.
Remember what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
And Jesus reminded us in John 13:35 “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
And the love we show at Cornerstone Wesleyan Church will prove to the world, and to Kingswood, and to Hammonds Plains, and to Bedford, and to Sackville, and to Dartmouth and to Halifax that we are His disciples.