"Blessed are the poor in spirit." These folks believed that being poor in anything was a sign they were sinners and that they were far from the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are the poor in spirit"? Poverty was almost as much an indicator of sin as was deformity and disease. The question must have arisen, "Where is He going with this?"
As Jesus' sermon progressed, that same question was probably asked again and again. "Where's He going with this?" Actually, Jesus was preaching an inductive sermon. Two main types of sermons that exist are inductive and deductive. A deductive sermon usually expresses the main thought at the beginning, makes several points to support that thought, and then ends with that thought being proven. For example, I could say, "God is love" at the beginning of a sermon, raise a few points to support that saying, and conclude with, "See, I told you that God is love." That's a deductive sermon.
An inductive sermon may start with a thought that makes the listener wonder where the preacher is headed. For example, I could say, "What is God like?" at the beginning of a sermon, give some texts and illustrations, and, hopefully, the listener is guided to conclude, "God is love." The same goal is reached through different methods.
In the inductive sermon, the conclusion is extremely important. It brings the whole sermon together. This is what Jesus does with the Sermon on the Mount which is recorded in the book of Matthew.
This sermon seems to go in many different directions, each verse which could easily be made in to its own sermon. So people are wondering, "What is He getting at? What's the main point?" Jesus starts out with the Beatitudes: "Blessed are the poor in spirit," blessed are all kinds of people that don't normally think that they're blessed. "Blessed are the persecuted?" This was new stuff. He tells people they are the "salt of the earth" in this sermon. He tells people they are "light" and they should let it shine. He tells them of the importance of God's law and how it will stand forever. Jesus tells them something very strange: to love their enemies and to give to the needy. He teaches them how to pray and how to fast. He talks about storing up treasures in Heaven and not worrying about what tomorrow will bring. He counsels not to judge others and how to receive answers to prayer. All in the same sermon! How is He to conclude?
I don't believe that Jesus sat down and wrote this sermon out the week before its delivery. I believe it was coming right from His heart on the spot. Many new and disturbing things had been said, but how. How is He to wrap it up now? What is the conclusion?
Ellen White, in a Review and Herald article from 1885 says that Jesus drew their attention to scenes around them and pointed out two houses. Many of the people had been attracted to the beautiful green valleys that led down to the Sea of Galilee. They were fisher folks. Their industry was built around the sea. And so many people wanted to leave close to the sea. It was a beautiful setting. Many built their houses in ideal spots, they thought, not taking into account the rainy season. It seemed so much nicer a place to build. It was convenient to the sea where many worked in the fishing industry. It was convenient to the streams of fresh water that ran through the valleys to the sea. But what many realized too late was that those streams, which were usually small or even dry during most of the year, could become raging torrents during the rainy season. These streams would overflow their banks in a big way and sweep away homes that were thought to be secure.
Others had built in less convenient but more solid places. Some of the homes that they could see on the hill tops had been there and withstood storms for many years, facing the very same storms that had swept away the others. This scene is from where Jesus drew His conclusion to the sermon.
Let's look at it in Matthew 7:24-27 "Therefore (everyone who hears) Therefore! When you come to a "therefore" you have to ask what it's there for. Why is it therefore? What is it there for? It's there for a reason. This is the conclusion of the sermon. There are some other "therefore's" within the sermon, but this is the last "therefore." So, this is what is bringing this whole inductive sermon to a head. "Therefore, all of these things I've been talking to you about, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who builds his house on the rock. 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. 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 and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.
Brother Dave Turner spoke today of building on a foundation. We have a number of experienced builders in our congregation. They know the importance of a solid foundation. If they build on anything that is not solid, their reputations are in jeopardy because the walls in the house may begin to crack. If I ask, "Who built this wall?" The owner won't hesitate to tell me. A firm foundation is so important! Our homes, our lives must be built on that.
One builder many years ago has a reputation today that he was not looking for then. In 1174, Bonanno Pisano began working on church property. He was commissioned to build a bell tower for the local church. When he reached the third story of what was to be an eight story building, the structure began to sink. He quit the project. The building sat in that condition for 90 years. That's kind of an eyesore for ninety years. I hope that when we get a building project started here it won't take so long. Then, others came and finished what he had started. Unfortunately, they did not fix the foundation! They decided to fix what had already been built. This means that instead of fixing the foundation, they built on top of what was crooked, what was leaning, and they made it straight. It was straight once again. At least part of it was anyway. They built the extra stories straight up. This means that what is now called the "Leaning Tower of Pisa" can also be called the "Crooked Tower of Pisa." If you see a picture of it from a right angle, you can see a definite curvature. They tried to straighten it out.
I climbed the 294 steps to the top of this tower in 1982. It was very strange! Each level you get up to there is a porch on the outside with columns around it, and a door that you can go out. That door is in a different position on every floor. If you walk out of that doorway on the downward side, you feel like you could fall right out. Indeed, you could, for there were no railings to prevent it. A very disconcerting feeling. Well, I could tell it was a little different on the top. Remember they had tried to straighten it out so the top wasn't leaning quite as much, but it was still leaning. The top was not so bad. But Remember, the building had once been straightened above the third story. Even though it was a very windy day, the tower felt solid and did not seem to budge. But the tower continues to lean more and more each year. One estimate is that the rate is now over one inch a year and increasing. Susan and I went back to climb it ten years later in 1992. They wouldn't let anyone very close at that time. It was walled off around the bottom. An area was marked out where it might fall. Work was being done on the foundation and the fear was that it might soon fall. They are finally going to the root. If it does fall, The leaning tower of Pisa won't fall by itself. It'll take out a nice little pizza shop. I know, because I was eating in that little pizza shop. I could not resist the idea of eating a piece a Pisa pizza. As I sat there, eating that piece a Pisa pizza, that tower was leaning right towards me. That shop's gone when that tower goes.
Many Christians are like the Tower of Pisa. They began their growth on a foundation of their own choosing. Then, when they start to lean from the direction that God wants them to go, they may try to fix themselves by trying to become "better." But they don't go back to the foundation. They just try to fix what is already taking place. They may appear solid and unshakable, just as this tower is solid and unshakable. I stood on the top of that tower in a high wind, and that thing doesn't move perceptibly. Many Christians appear solid and unshakable, but in reality, they may be crooked and sinking. When they fall, others are usually taken with them. They have not followed the teachings of Christ and have built their religion on something less.
In that same Review and Herald article, Ellen White wrote, "Let none of us deceive ourselves into believing that we can carry into our religious life the crookedness of character the unchristian traits, which have been transmitted to us as a birthright and strengthened by education."
Another tower, finished in 1889, seems more stable, even though it stands 984 ft high. Somebody told me that is about a hundred stories high. Alexandre Eiffel chose a more solid foundation for his masterpiece. The Eiffel Tower stands today high above Paris. Whether you like the way it looks or not, it is visible. When construction began, many hated it and called it the "Iron Skeleton." One writer, Elliot Paul, disliked the looks so much that he rented a space on its first level to do his writing. When asked why, he stated, "This is the only place in Paris where I can avoid seeing this retched structure." Others see it as a beautiful work of art. In fact at night with the lights shining on it, it's called "the Lady of lace." People come from all around the world just to see it. The money that it generates for Paris is enough to quiet those who dislike it.
I have been to the top of this tower too. I didn't take the steps, though. I used three elevators and an hour and forty five minutes to get to the top. You had to wait in line for each of the elevators. When you get to the top, it seems so much higher than it looks. You feel like you're in a seven forty seven flying over Paris. And the wind blows. And this tower moves when the wind blows. You can feel it. It's not a good feeling. But I noticed that it only moved a little bit. And it moved back and then it moved the other way and it came back. But it always came back to its perpendicular course, and never moved far from it because of its foundation.
Christians should have that kind of foundation. They may move slightly when the winds of strife come. We may sin. It's not a good thing, but it does happen to us. Is there anyone here in a position now where they can say, "Well, I didn't sin all last month."? That's not good. It's not appropriate. But that is the way we are. If our foundation is secure on the Rock of Jesus Christ, when we do stray off course, it's not far and we come right back to the course. We can get forgiveness, we can head back toward heaven. And, like the Eiffel Tower, a Christian should stand up for Jesus no matter what others think of them. Last week we had a sermon about a tree standing prominent. We should be like a tower standing prominent for the Lord. No matter what people think of us, we should be there. People should know what foundation we're on. We should attract others to that solid Foundation.
Let's look again at verse 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."
Notice, it is not just those who hear, but those who hear and do who are considered wise. Some believe that Jesus has done it all so we do nothing. That is not the case. We do because Jesus did! That is our motivation. The reason why we do anything is because He did everything. But our doing is not for our own benefit. It is for others. To help bring them to the Foundation, the Rock, Jesus, Himself and all that He represents.
Look at verse 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."
When you have the news on, and a report come on that there's a tornado in the area, where do they tell you to head? Where in the house are you supposed to go in case of a tornado? If you have a basement, go there. Why? Because it is the most solid part of the house. Why? Because it is closest to the foundation.
If you find yourself in a spiritual storm, go to the Foundation. If your foundation is the Rock, Jesus Christ, you will be secure. That is not saying that you won't be affected by the storm. The storm hits the righteous and the unrighteous. But you will remain on course because of the foundation. That is why some people can face great difficulty and endure heart ripping tragedy with a peace that seems strange. They are remaining strong and on course because their Foundation, the Rock of Ages, is secure.
Where other people, the least little wind of strife get their feeling hurt. They're gone, They're out the back door. They're somewhere else. "I can't handle it any more!" Shifting sand! That is the alternative to the Solid Rock.
Look at verse 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." Notice, both groups heard the words. Neither one of these groups is ignorant. They know what Jesus has said. But it is those that have their house on the solid rock that are doing what He said, but those on the shifting sand are in trouble.
What is the sand? Anything that is not the rock! Anything that you can build your life on that is not Jesus Christ is drifting sand. All the old world has to offer is "fun" for a season and tragedy for a lifetime. It's not eternity. Many rely upon themselves for security. "If I can do things good enough and look good enough to those around me, I am good enough."
This reminds me of what we see on the news stories every year on TV. The mud slides of California. Have you seen those houses going down the side of the mountain? Every year, beautiful, expensive, mansions slide off the slopes dragging their swimming pools with them. Every year, more mansions are built on those same slippery slopes. It does not seem to matter who built the house. It does not seem to matter how much money it cost. It does not seem to matter how beautiful it is. It does not seem to matter that the owner is the CEO of a major corporation or a Pop Star. It does not seem to matter that the kid's GPA is 4.0. What matters is the foundation that it's on! And yet they keep doing it over and over again. That's why they're called "foolish." It's right here in the scripture.
In verse 27, "The rain came down, the stream rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."
The same storm that beat against the first house demolished the second one.
F. E. Belden once wrote:
We'll build on the Rock, the living Rock, on Jesus, the Rock of Ages; So shall we abide the fearful shock, when loud the tempest rages. Some build on the sinking sands of life, on visions of earthly treasure; Some build on the waves of sin and strife, of fame, and worldly pleasure. O build on the Rock forever sure, the firm and the true foundation; Its hope is the hope which shall endure, the hope of our salvation.
Is your foundation solid? Or is it shifting and eroding? If you are not on solid ground, do not try to attack it by trying to fix the structure. Go to the foundation. Start over. Make Jesus your foundation, and then build upon that. Grow upon Him with the secure knowledge that He will keep your life on course. "My hope is built on nothing less..."
Hymn of Praise: #8, We Gather Together Scripture: Matthew 7:24-27 Hymn of Response: #522, My Hope is Built on Nothing Less
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last updated 3/6/2000 by Bob Beckett.