What have you heard? What have you done?



"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:
            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.

"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:
            and the rain descended,
            the floods came,
            and the winds blew and beat on that house;
and it fell. And great was its fall."

And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings,
that the people were astonished at His teaching,
for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

                                                                           Matthew 7:24-29 NKJV


                                     In Conclusion, . . . .

I knew a man who built his house on a rocky hill. I was told he used
dynamite to blast into the rocks for his foundation. Then he poured
thick walls of concrete for the basement, upon which he constructed
a sturdy brick dwelling place for his family. I grew up in that home.
Watched many storms from the windows. And the walls of that house
never shook.

In contrast, I have read in Habitat for Humanity publications about
men, women and children who have good reason to worry about their
houses whenever a storm is predicted. Their homes have literally too
many loose ends, and threats of weather-related damage are very real.

We are now at the end of Jesus' sermon on the mount. Time to wrap
it up, and fit all the pieces together. The final word for his listeners was
a weather forecast. It's going to be stormy. Life will be rough at times.
But there is something you can do to ensure your chances of survival.

Jesus described two builders. One built high; the other low. One worked
hard to get the house firmly secured to the rock; the other used the
sandy floor of a dry river bed. One spent time and energy carrying all
the necessary materials uphill; the other conserved time and energy by
having no hill to climb or basement to dig. Above ground, the structures
looked alike; below the house, unseen, the foundation made all the
difference.

To a bystander, both houses appeared secure and equal in craftsmanship.
The homebuilder on the rock may have seemed foolish for taking such
a demanding approach. And the one on the sand more wise because
his workload allowed time to do other things, like enjoying life. According
to Jesus' parable, the bystander is short-sighted. Some year the wind
will be cruel and the rains extreme. The streams will rise and the river
suddenly overflow and carry everything far downstream. The storm
will reveal who is wise and who is foolish.

The story is clear and easy to understand. But it's not about our physical
abode. It's about building lives, homes and positive relationships with
God and each other. Jesus used common, everyday images in order
to explain spiritual truths. Whoever hears these words of Jesus and
does them is like a wise person fashioning their life and relationships
on a foundation of rock.

Just as cookbooks don't provide nourishment, and exercise charts
don't make an athlete, so the teachings of Jesus are only words until
we have acted upon them. Hearing is not complete until there is action.
We "do" the words of Jesus when they find constant expression in
our lives.

The teachings of Jesus seem strangely out of place in a world full of
bad news. We are more familiar with wars, greed and the atrocities
committed by one individual or group against another. Our values of
hard work, success and getting ahead are not the values Jesus
expressed, either. The wisdom of Jesus seems foolish to many of us,
most of the time. But when the storm hits, we realize what is
really important.

Jesus told us about the power of faith, humility, gentleness, truth and
love; and the weakness of possessions, deceit, revenge,
self-righteousness and judgment. Forgiveness and mercy triumph
over anger and vindication! And here's something very basic - It's not
about me, it's about us! The lifestyle Jesus advocated seems so
unfamiliar it often sounds absurd. More to do with soul strength, than
physical strength. It's a downward journey that leads to great heights
of joy!

We can admire the words of Jesus and discuss them, but they will do
us no good until we live them. I know someone who decided to spend a
year with this sermon on the mount before making some major decisions
in response to a difficult relationship. Changes were made that year,
but not the ones that person expected. After a year of living with this 
Sermon on the Mount and putting Jesus' words into practice, the
anticipated major changes were no longer considered, necessary or
desirable. The Gospel does work in our day-to-day lives when we
build upon the Rock.

The crowds were astonished by Jesus' authority. They will be even
more amazed when they go home and begin doing what he told them
to do!

 

Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.

 

Icebreaker: Describe something unique about one of the houses
                      in which you have lived.

 

Did you ever experience nature's fury?
            What was the worst weather you were ever in?
            Did you think your life was in danger?   If so, what was that like?

 

Discuss the similarities and differences between nature's storms
and the storms of life?
            What are some storms that strike suddenly?
            What are some storms that evolve over time?

 

Now is a good time to review this series of studies. Make a list of some
of the things Jesus taught in his sermon on the mount.
            In what ways are these words a good foundation for life?
            Do you admire them, discuss them or live them?
            Are these words of Jesus all about building relationships with God
                         and with each other?
            Is there anything on your list you would be reluctant (or eager) to try?
            Did your life ever change because you did one of Jesus' sayings?

 

Why might the teachings of Jesus sound foolish to people in our society?
            Evaluate a commonly-held belief in light of Jesus' teachings,
                        for example, how we measure success.
            Why would Jesus call our popular way of thinking foolish?

 

What is the role of faith in hearing and doing the words of Jesus?
            How do you determine what is foolish and what is wise?
            How do you know if you are establishing a firm foundation for 
                        your life?

 

Jesus presented just two options. Rock or sand. Many of us would
rather choose ground somewhere in the middle. Better than sand,
not necessarily rock.
            What's wrong with steering a course down the middle and thinking
                        our foundation is adequate?
            How much "doing" is sufficient? How obedient must we be?
            Why would Jesus offer only two choices?

 

If you were teaching this parable, what would be the main emphasis?
            Hearing and doing the teachings of Jesus?
            The storms of life?
            The wise and foolish builders?
            The firm foundation?
In a sentence, what would be the main point you would make?

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