We come this morning to the conclusion of the "Sermon on the Mount". We looked last week at the question, "Who Enters the Kingdom?" Jesus said:
Matthew 7:21 (NKJV) "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
According to Jesus, who is it that enters the Kingdom? Very clearly it is: "He we does the will of My Father in heaven." The question we must answer is, "What does Jesus mean by "the will of the Father", and who are those who do it?
When Jesus spoke of doing the will of the Father to obtain kingdom entrance, I believe, based on the analogy of faith, that He had one act of obedience in mind: believing the gospel.
John 6:28-29 (NKJV) Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" 29 Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."
Now notice that Jesus uses the same word they started with, work, but He puts it in the singular. Jesus says this is the work, with a play on words. What is that work? That work is to believe. But, of course, believing isn't a work at all, is it? In other words, this is what God requires of you, not works, but one thing, that is to believe.
John 6:40 (NKJV) "And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day."
Believing in Jesus Christ is doing the will of God. A person who trusts in Christ alone for their eternal salvation obeys the will of the Father in respect to the gospel. Such a person obtains absolute perfection before God, positionally speaking, since Christ takes away all of his sins and gives him His righteousness in exchange (2 Cor. 5:21). And, such a person can be 100% sure of his salvation since he can know with certainty that he has done the will of the Father (in relation to the gospel) once and for all.
Saving faith is not a matter of doing anything, it is accepting the testimony of God. Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ? If you do, then on the testimony of scripture, you are saved, you possess everlasting life.
John Robbins, in the foreword of Gordon Clarks's book, Faith and Saving Faith, writes, "Belief of the truth, nothing more and nothing less, is what separates the saved from the damned. Those who maintain that there is something more than belief, are, quite literally, beyond belief."
So, to answer our original question, "Who enters the Kingdom?" It is the person who trusts only and completely in what Christ has done for him on Calvary. It is all of faith, works play no part in our eternal redemption.
Now, when you talk about free grace the question often arises, "Since we are saved by grace through faith and faith alone, does it matter how we live once we are saved?" Absolutely! It makes a tremendous difference - not in your eternal destiny - but in your quality of life, here and now. Notice how Jesus closes this sermon:
Matthew 7:24-27 (NKJV) "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 "and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 "But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 "and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."
Jesus has just finished delivering the message that contained all the great ethical precepts of His teaching. In it, Jesus lays it all out: love your enemies, blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the meek, forgive those who wrong you, forgive those who wrong you time and time again, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Then, as a conclusion to the message, He tells this little story, what's known as a parable. Now let me ask you what is the essence of this parable? What is it illustrating? What separates the wise builder from the foolish builder? It is a one word answer, obedience!
Listen to what one commentator writes on these verses:
Therefore thus says the Lord God, 'Behold I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed" (Isaiah 28:16). That verse is quoted again in the New Testament in Romans 9:33 and 1 Peter 2:6. The one who believes in this firm foundation will not be shaken - he will not be ashamed or disturbed. That promise is concerning Christ. He is the foundation. You must believe in Him and His Word. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:11, "For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." He is the only foundation for the Church to be established upon and the only one upon which lives can be built. He is the rock who provides the stability for the house.
The Jews to whom Jesus is talking in Matthew 7 are aware of the claim He is making when He tells them to believe in Him (emphasis mine DBC) and their house will be established.
Where in this parable does Jesus say anything about believing? His stress here is on DOING. This is very important! We are saved by faith alone, but here Jesus is talking to those who believe in Him and stressing the importance of obedience. Jesus says something like, "It's important to actually do these things I've told you, not just think it's a good idea to do them, but to actually follow through and do them."
There are some questions that we must answer: What do the "houses" of the wise and foolish builders represent? What "storms" is Jesus talking about? How can we "build" so as to be able to withstand the storms?
Let's begin by identifying the "houses"; I suggest that the houses represent our lives. Each of us is building a life. A life that will respond to the many ups and downs that come our way. Jesus is saying in this parable, "If you want to protect your life from damage, you've got to be wise and obey my commandments and my rules for your life." Please notice that this obedience results in quality of life and preservation of life.
This teaching about obedience and life preservation runs all through the Scriptures:
Proverbs 10:25 (NKJV) When the whirlwind passes by, the wicked is no more, But the righteous has an everlasting foundation.
Our preservation in the storms of life is tied to our obedience.
James teaches that our deliverance from the destructive effects of sin is directly connected to our obedience to the Word of God. The theme verse of James is:
James 1:21 (NKJV) Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
The purpose of the book of James is to teach us how we can save ourselves from the damaging effects of sin. James says we are to receive with meekness the "implanted word." When was it implanted? Verse 18 tells us, it was at our redemption.
James 1:18 (NKJV) Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.
Why should we receive the Word with meekness? Because it is able to "save your life." The word soul is psuche, which can also be translated: "life." The word save is the Greek word sozo which means: "to deliver." It is used here in a temporal sense of saving your life from the damage that sin brings. The expression "Save your soul" is never found any place in the New Testament to describe the conversion experience. James is writing about the temporal life and how to preserve it from damage. "Save" has the idea of prolong and enhance your life. It is used this way in:
1 Timothy 4:16 (NKJV) Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.
Paul tells Timothy to watch his doctrine and his life and in doing this he cannot only save himself but those who hear him.
In verses 22-25 James states and illustrates the need for active obedience to the Word which will save us from damage.
James 1:22 (NKJV) But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
"But" indicates something further must be said, it's not enough to hear, obedience must follow. Literally, it reads: "Become ye continually doers." Do believers always put the word into practice? No! Many Christians mark their Bibles, but their Bibles never mark them. "Doers"is poietes, which means: "a performer." It is used 6 times in the New Testament, four times in James. Why didn't he just say, "Do the Word?" Because it's one thing to fix a car, it's another thing to be a mechanic. It's one thing to build a house, it's another thing to be a builder. We are not just to occasionally do the Word, we are to be doers of the Word.
"Not hearers only" - akroates, which is a classical term for an academic auditor who listens and maybe even takes notes but has no assignments, responsibilities, or tests. They listen, but don't do any of the work. Many people want to audit Christianity. They don't want to get involved in service, they just listen. Many attend church the same way they would a movie, they're just spectators who listen and then evaluate the message as to how it appealed to them. Hearing is not an end in itself, it is a means to an end.
"Deceiving yourselves" is the Greek word paralogizomai, which means: "to misreckon, to delude or beguile, deceive." It is fallacious reasoning, you are making a huge mistake. This word is only used one other time in the New Testament and that is:
Colossians 2:4 (NKJV) Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words.
If you think that all that is required is listening, you are making a big mistake.
James now gives us an analogy of some one who hears but doesn't do, he says:
James 1:23 (NKJV) For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror;
The word "observing" is the Greek word katanoeo, which means: "to observe fully, to look carefully and intently at oneself." Why do we use mirrors? To see ourselves. Why do we want to see ourselves? So we can make corrections where they are needed.
James 1:24 (NKJV) for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.
He looks at himself and sees all the flaws, but instead of fixing them, he walks away from the mirror and forgets what he saw. Have you ever done that? Looked in a mirror and saw your faults and then walked away without dealing with them? I doubt it!
Now James gives us the other side of the analogy, the doer.
James 1:25 (NKJV) But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
"Looks into" is the Greek word parakupto, it means: "to bend beside, to lean over (so as to peer within) to examine closely." Your attitude when you come to the Word means everything. Are you teachable? Do you come here in prayer saying, "Teach me from your Word oh Lord?" Or is your attitude, "I sure hope that David's interesting today"? Do you read over the text before you get here? Do you memorize and meditate on it asking God to teach you? If you are here just to audit, I need to warn you that you will be tested. In chapter four James says:
James 4:17 (NKJV) Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.
James calls the Scripture the "perfect law of liberty." It is God's perfect will for our lives. Seneca said, "To obey God is liberty." Our liberty comes through obedience. If you want to have freedom to drive down the highway, you had better obey the highway laws.
James says that this man "continues" in the perfect law of liberty. The word he uses for continue is parameno, from para which means: "beside" and meno which means: "remain or continue." The emphasis here is not on the manner of looking but on the duty of continuing or persevering in the observance of the law. This man doesn't forget what he looks like, he keeps looking and looking.
People, for the most part, don't want to seriously evaluate their lives, they're afraid of what they might see. We need to be willing to look honestly at ourselves, and we can only do this through the Word.
In Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, there's a story about a couple of Pilgrims who were on their way to the Celestial City. As they got into the mountains, they ran into some Shepherds. And the Shepherds gave them a beautiful looking glass. "Now the glass was one in a thousand," writes Bunyan, "It would reflect a man, one way, with his own features exactly; but turn it another way, and it would show the very face of the Prince of pilgrims Himself. Yea, I have talked with those who can tell, and they've said they have seen the very crown of thorns upon His head by looking into this glass; they've seen also the holes in His hands, in his feet, and in His side. Yea, such an excellency is there in this glass, that it will show Him to one, if he has a mind to see Him..."
James goes on to say that this man "...is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does."
The word "blessed" literally means: "Oh, the happiness." "Blessedness," as the Bible defines it, is the heart condition the whole world is looking for. You see, "blessedness," Biblically defined, is that almost indescribable, but very real "inner sense of well being." It's an inner feeling of security and contentment, and a positive outlook on life. It's to experience an unusual level of joy. "Blessedness" is a calm assurance of self-worth. It's the vitality of spirit that comes when you know deep down that all is well between you and God. Please notice that it is the "doer" who is blessed. It is the person who lives in obedience to the Word that is blessed.
In the book of John, Jesus said,
John 15:10-11 (NKJV) "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. 11 "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that YOUR JOY MAY BE FULL.
It is through keeping the commandments that we find full joy.
This man is blessed, not by hearing alone, but by being a doer of the work. He is blessed, because he continues to stare into the Word of God and lives his life in obedience to it. Joshua teaches us this same truth:
Joshua 1:8 (NKJV) "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
What is the difference in these two men that James presents to us? One walks away from the Word without dealing with his sin. The other continues in the Word and by the power of the Spirit he submits to the Word, he lives it out in his every day life.
So, obedience to God brings us a quality of life, a blessedness. That is great, but we also need to understand that God is pleased when we live in obedience to His Word.
1 Samuel 15:22 (NKJV) Then Samuel said: "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.
The Lord delights far more in obedience than in the performance of worship ceremonies without it. God takes pleasure in our obedience, because our disobedience is idolatry.
1 Samuel 15:23 (NKJV) For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king."
When God says one thing, and we then stubbornly choose to go our own way, we are idolaters. We have actually esteemed the direction of our own mind over God's direction and become guilty of idolatry. And worst of all, the idol is our own self.
God takes pleasure in us when our obedience shows that we put our treasure in Him and not in the enticements of sin. He delights in the humility of our submission that loves to make a name for God and not man.
Colossians 3:20 (NKJV) Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.
Believer, do you understand this? Obedience pleases God, and disobedience displeases Him:
1 Corinthians 10:5 (NKJV) But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
1 John 3:21-22 (NKJV) Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. 22 And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
We don't earn our salvation through obedience, but the Bible makes it clear that when we disobey Him, we're not pleasing Him.
Many have a wrong idea about obedience. They think God is just a cosmic wet blanket, out to ruin everybody's fun. "Don't have fun, or you'll be sinning, and I don't like that." That's the way many people view God, and sometimes Christians reinforce that view of God as somebody who doesn't care what you do so much as what you don't do. However, the reason God wants us to obey Him really has very little to do with Him wanting to keep us from fun, it has to do with Him caring about us so much that He doesn't want us to get hurt. God's guidelines for our behavior are there to protect us. Think about it: think of something named as a sin in the Bible. Doesn't matter what it is, a person will always be safer and better off if they don't do it. I could name many examples, but it's almost silly to waste time doing so now. Pick a sin, any sin, and a reason to avoid it can be quickly thought of.
God delights in our obedience, because everything God commands us is for our own good. And so what God is really delighting in when he delights in our obedience is our deep and lasting joy.
Deuteronomy 6:24 (NKJV) 'And the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day.
Deuteronomy 10:12-13 (NKJV) "And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 "and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good?
All of God's commands are like a doctor's prescription, or a physician's therapy. They are not arbitrary. They are meant to make us well and happy. Every command of Jesus is meant for our good.
In July 1976, Israeli commandos raided a hijacked plane at the airport in Entebbe, Uganda. In less than 15 minutes all 7 of the kidnappers had been killed and the 103 Jewish hostages had been set free. However, 3 hostages were killed. Commandos came in and shouted in Hebrew, "Get down! Crawl!" Most of them understood and obeyed, but some - for whatever reason - hesitated and were shot by the men trying to free them.
Obedience is commanded for our own good. God's rules for our behavior are not things we must do to earn our salvation or rules to obey because of some arbitrary decision made by a vengeful Creator. They are there to protect us, to make our lives easier, and the sooner we stop thinking of God's rules as ruining our lives and see them as things that make our lives easier, the better off we'll be.
Matthew 7:25 (NKJV) "and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.
What "storms" is Jesus talking about? I think that the storms are things that threaten our well being. This could be literal storms: such as tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, etc., which may take away all we own, perhaps even our loved ones. How we respond to such tragedies will reveal the quality of our "building". Will we be emotionally devastated? Will we be able to stand strong, willing to continue on without despair?
It may also involve figurative storms: such as illness, loss of loved ones, financial setbacks, which may take away our health, family, possessions. Again, how we respond to such tragedies will reveal the quality of our "building". Will we be emotionally devastated? Will we be able to stand strong, willing to continue on without despair?
Now, you may be wondering how obedience to God helps us weather storms. The answer is that when we live in obedience, we live in fellowship with God:
John 14:21 (NKJV) "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him."
John 15:10 (NKJV) "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love.
When we are living in fellowship with God, we are able to deal with all of life's storms. Job endured the storms of life, because he was a doer of the Word. He lived an obedient life in fellowship with God:
Job 1:8 (NKJV) Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?"
It was because Job lived in fellowship with God that he was able to handle the severe storms that he faced. The same is true of Paul, it was his relationship to the Living God that enabled him to endure the hardships he faced.
How can we "build" so as to be able to withstand the storms? The metaphorical storms of life are inevitable, but Jesus reassures us and says, "If you're smart, you'll build a solid foundation by obedience, and those storms won't destroy you."
Let's talk for a minute about the beneficial nature of God's rules for our lives. Once a museum had "Do Not Touch" signs on all their exhibits. Still, however, they had problems with people touching and soiling their priceless furniture and art. They finally solved the problem when a clever employee replaced the "Do Not Touch" signs with ones that read, "Caution: Wash Hands After Touching!"
One can present the Christian life in such a way that it looks like nothing more than a bunch of rules - don't do this, don't do that, don't do anything that might be fun, etc. - but that's the worst light you can put it in. The truth is that God's "rules" are more like a "Caution Sign" than a "Do Not Touch" sign. They are there for our own protection, joy, and fulfillment in life.
Jesus doesn't say, "You'd better obey my words, or the Father is going to punish you." He says, "You'd better listen to and follow through on my words so that you'll be able to survive the storms of life."
God's guidelines for our lives are given for the purpose of our protection and our happiness. There is a wide host of guidelines that God has for us that the world says are ridiculous -- guidelines about the sanctity & exclusivity of the marital relationship, about the restriction of sexual activity to marriage, the emphasis on others before self, on forgiveness freely given when asked for, that honesty is always the best policy, that materialism is not the road to real happiness -- every last one of these "rules," plus all the others that are found in God's Word, are given to us for our own good. And if we're smart, we'll realize that and seek to live by God's guidelines.
The last two verses of Matthew 7 show the impact of Christ's teaching on the people who heard Him:
Matthew 7:28 (NKJV) And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching,
The word which is translated "astonished" is an interesting and strong word. It literally means: "struck out of their senses". We would say today, "They were blown away."These people were dumbfounded, awestruck, astonished. Jesus has finished His teaching, and everybody continues to sit there. They cannot believe what they have heard.
Matthew 7:29 (NKJV) for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
The people were accustomed to the teaching of the scribes, who went out of their way to quote all the authorities they could come up with to give weight to what they were saying and to impress the people with their views. They would tell what all of the leading rabbis had to say about what they were teaching, as though if you could get enough people with weight behind you, that meant you must surely be right.
Jesus said that the one who hears the Word of God and does not act upon it is foolish. The word which is translated "foolish" is the base for the English word "moron."The one who hears but does not act upon the Word of God is foolish or stupid. He has not really considered the issues. Notice where the contrast is between the groups. Both groups hear the Word of God, but the difference is in the response to the Word. Response is the crucial issue, and that is where Jesus wants to focus. Some are doers of the Word and some are not doers of the Word.
So, where do you fit this morning? Are you a doer of the word? Are you building a house that will stand the storms of life? If you are not, Jesus says, "You're foolish".
As Jesus concluded His earthly ministry with His disciples in John 13, He said:
John 13:17 (NKJV) "If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
The blessing of life can be ours if we will live in obedience to God's word.
|Continue the Series|