The Sermon on the Mount is one of my favorite passages of scripture in the Bible. It’s one of the most dense collections of Jesus’ teachings and it’s so straightforward and easy to understand. In particular, I love the last passage.
Mat 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. 25 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. 26 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. 27 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.”
This passage can’t help but beg the question, “What does it mean to build my house on the rock?” That is what I want to bring to this study is to answer that question by looking to the Sermon on the Mount and it’s profound teaching on what it means to live a life following Jesus.
If you’re like me, some days it feels like we just can’t escape the shifting sands of the world and all of the temptations it continually puts at our doorstep. As a believer, I think it’s more important now than ever we pay attention to the spiritual battle our culture is experiencing and make it our heart’s intent to follow God into this battle with our objective being to experience the victory we have through the cross of Jesus Christ. To do this we need to understand the type of people we need to be to bring this victory to fulfillment in our daily lives and in the lives of others which means learning how to BUILD OUR HOUSE ON THE ROCK.
The Attributes Of A Christian = Blessed – The Beatitudes
In the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount is a list of attributes of those seeking God. This passage is commonly referred to as the “Beatitudes”.
Mat 5:3-12 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Ask yourself this question. Do we see these values anymore in our culture? Not hardly. Our culture is now characterized by arrogance, divisiveness and hatred as opposed to the humility and love we see in the Beatitudes. It’s very difficult to find people that believe in a life of sacrifice for others in this culture of “wanting what’s mine” and doing everything to get it.
“Blessed” in the Beatitudes is the Greek word “markarios” meaning happy. So people who have these attributes are happy. Now happiness can mean many different things to different people, but this type of happiness is a genuine happiness. It’s inspired by God and creates self awareness and a deep sense of value in the eyes of God. Doesn’t that sound like what people need today?
Psa 149:4. For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.
Let’s take the first line in the beatitudes. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Adam Clarke defines the poor in spirit this way.
“One who is deeply sensible of his spiritual poverty and wretchedness. Πτωχος, a poor man, comes from πτωσσω, to tremble, or shrink with fear. Being destitute of the true riches, he is tremblingly alive to the necessities of his soul, shrinking with fear lest he should perish without the salvation of God. Such Christ pronounces happy, because there is but a step between them and that kingdom which is here promised. Some contend, that μακαριοι should be referred to πνευματι, and the verse translated thus: Happy, or blessed in spirit, are the poor. But our Lord seems to have the humiliation of the spirit particularly in view.”
I won’t go through each and every beatitude, but suffice it to say these qualities of a person are those sought by a Holy God. He wants what is best for us and these qualities, when part of our regular habits, lead to our happiness because we know we will have eternal life and the worries and pain of this life will eventually fade away. In other words, we will be building our house on the rock. The apostle Peter writes:
2 Pet 1:8-15 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. 13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.
Moving on from the beatitudes, let’s keep journeying through the Sermon on the Mount to further understand what it means to build our house on the rock.
Mat 5:17-20 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Building your house on the rock means obeying the commandments of God and acting righteously.
Does that mean we are supposed to sacrifice animals and watch the things we eat? No. It means we are to obey the moral commandments of God. Moral commandments are those that exhibit God’s attributes. An example would be “Thou shall not murder”. Murder is the unjust killing of another person and God is a God of justice. Justice is one of God’s attributes and should also be one of ours.
Mat 5:21-48 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. 31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. 33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
In verses 5:21-48 we have a very large variety of statements by Christ that help point to the character we must obtain to have our house built on the rock. Without going into all of the verses in detail, this passage is really just reiterating what Jesus just said with regards to obeying the commandments and avoiding sin. Things like anger, unforgiveness, lust, greed, hate and vengefulness are all things that build a house on sand.
To build our house on the rock, we must avoid sin, extend mercy, and seek forgiveness for wrongs we commit.
In the next passage, Jesus teaches us not to be hypocrites.
Mat 6:1-18. “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. 14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. 16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
To build our house on the rock we need to be sincere people and not full of hypocrisy. Our focus needs to be on God and others and not ourselves. We need to honest in all of our dealings and not seek glory from men.
Mat 6:19-34 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
To build our house on the rock we can’t be greedy people.
Greed causes anxiety and anxiety causes us to focus on controlling things ourselves instead of relying on God. The treasure we hope for is in eternity, not here on earth. This is a tough passage for people in our culture because we have everything. Even the poor in our culture are infinitely more wealthy than the poor in other countries who live on $2 per day if they’re lucky. Our theologies, or lack thereof, have also done a good job convincing us that this passage does not mean having a lot of money is a bad thing, but that we just shouldn’t treat it as the most important thing. But we need to be careful we don’t become blind. If most of our money and possessions is extraordinarily large in comparison to what we give towards building the Kingdom of God, we may just be serving the one and not the Other. And there’s also the fact the strong underlying message of this whole passage is that most of our time should be seeking the kingdom AND THEN these things will be added to us. If we spend the bulk of our day in pursuit of career or riches first, are we not relegating ourselves to serving money over God? I think it’s a fair question to ask if we want to take scripture seriously and we want to build our house on the rock. We’re good at convincing our selves that money is a rock, when in reality it could be one of the biggest contributors to sand beneath our feet.
Mat 7:1-6 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. 6 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
To build our house on the rock we have to judge rightly.
Many people misinterpret this verse to mean we are not supposed to judge people at all. But that’s not what the verse is saying. It’s teaching us that we must judge rightly or be a people of justice. That means we can’t cast judgment on someone else for something in which we are also guilty. That’s the reason Jesus commands us to take the log our of our own eye first so we can then be of assistance to others. Another way of saying this is if we have removed the obstacles to seeking God’s Kingdom from our own lives, we are then capable of helping someone else remove those obstacles.
Mat 7:7-11 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
To build our house in the rock we must be people of prayer.
Prayer is our way of interceding for ourselves and others. Prayer, along with reading the Bible, will keep us close with God. If we ask Him with a right heart He will answer and we will know He is with us.
The warning in the Sermon on the Mount
At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, before Jesus gives the analogy of the house on the rock versus the sand, He gives a warning to His followers.
Mat 7:12-23 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. 13 “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. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. 15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Actually it’s this passage that the rock and the sand analogy answers. Because of this warning, this is why we need to strive to build our house on the rock. Nothing in this life is more important and Christians should treat it as such. As Jesus said earlier in the Sermon on the Mount:
Mat 5:13-16 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.