Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
We’re all familiar with the story of the Three Little Pigs. Do you remember how it goes? One little pig built his house with straw, another built his house with sticks, and the third made his house with bricks. All seemed to be going fine and well in their new dwellings until the big bad wolf came one day. Then he huffed, and he puffed, and that showed the actual quality of each home. Jesus tells a very similar story in our Gospel lesson. It’s a story about two men who build two houses. One house is built on rock with deep foundations. The other man built his house on the ground without any foundation. Both homes look good on the outside. Both buildings would be perfectly serviceable in the dry season. But when a flood comes, only one survives. The other collapses and is utterly ruined. Two people, two different houses. Which house is yours?
A Life Without Foundation
The houses are our earthly lives, and two responses to Jesus’ message. They appear equally serviceable most of the time, and they look identical. In our terms, they both have chimneys, both have several bedrooms, the windows are shuttered, they are freshly painted in attractive colours, and the yards are well-kept. So it is with our lives—they often look the same. The two people attend the same church, sing the same songs, send their kids to the same schools. It doesn’t seem to matter what’s under the superstructure most of the time. But when the floods of life crash upon them, one house will last, while the other will fall in upon itself in fatal collapse.
The man who builds his house upon the ground without any foundation is a person who hears God’s Word but who does not put it into practice. It is possible to claim to be a Christian yet not a doer of the Word. This type of hypocrisy is what Jesus is trying to identify by the question: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (v. 46). This person’s life is like a house built on ground but it does not have any foundation. It is weak and unstable and eventually destroyed by the flood. The choice is one of life or death and the purpose of the story is to warn us that we could well be on the road to ruin. There are severe consequences here. As Christians, we are in a privileged and dangerous position.
What does that look like? As members of Christ’s church, we call him “Lord, Lord,” and we see his power at work among us. Maybe you hear God’s Word. You read your bible you come to church. But if that’s all, you’re in big trouble. The Word of God brings a solemn responsibility upon the hearers; it ought to produce repentance, faith, and obedience. So, do you do what Christ tells you, or do you know the vocabulary? Do you talk the talk but fail to walk the walk? Do you have a genuine trust in Jesus Christ, or are you banking on your Lutheran heritage? Do you think church attendance is a substitute loving your neighbour? Do your thoughts and behaviour match what’s presented in the Bible? Is Jesus alive in your life? Do you love him? I hope all of us will examine our hearts by the standards Jesus set down and not by our culture, lived experience, or anything else in this world. Is your claim to be a Christian only outward, with no change of life, no reality, no obedience, no self-denial? That house cannot stand. It may look solid and last for decades, but it has no foundations.
Jesus says that the floods of life will reveal whether we have a foundation or not. There have been several storms over the past few years that have battered us. Everything is being shaken – our selves, our homes, society, and congregations. Our values, beliefs, and institutions are being tested to the very core. Popular ideologies have stolen and are stealing our friends and children. Their houses fell and were ruined. The disruption of our lives by this epidemic and its lockdowns has tested the strength of our foundations. Looking back, we may see many times we feared a virus more than God. It’s estimated that 30% of parishioners will not return to the Church when the restrictions are lifted. Their houses fell and were ruined. Others here might face employment or money issues. World events have caused us all to pause and fear what the future might hold. Some here feel like they are fighting a loosing battle against their own sin. Some of you are being tested with health problems. Some refuse to listen to what Jesus says about sex, gender, and other social issues. Their houses will fall and be ruined. We may endure the small floods of adversity and the moderate winds of trouble. But that will only give us a false sense of security. But the supreme test is the final flood of death. We must all face God’s judgment throne. Will your house survive? Our lives will stand or fall depending on what we do with Christ’s Word.
A Life With Foundation
Everyone must build on something. A house with a foundation is solid and secure and can withstand any assault. St. Paul says, “no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Co 3:11). The man who builds his house upon the rock is a person who not only hears God’s Word but also puts it into practice. The message is for all of us: if we build our lives on Jesus Christ, we will build a house that lasts forever. The only foundation that will hold is Christ, his person, his death for you on the cross, and his teachings.
And Jesus says, the only way to have a well-built foundation is if you come to Christ, hear his words, and do them. It must always begin with coming to Christ. Today a person can approach Christ when he attends corporate worship, hears his word preached and receives his body and blood. There are no churchless Christians. Coming to Christ then enables hearing. You can’t hear Jesus if you don’t come. We need to hear God’s Word. Today many church attendees listen to God’s Word the way they listen to a flight attendant explain an aircraft’s safety features—totally tuned out. But we need to recognise the Bible as the very Words of the Creator God. Every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God ought to have our full attention.
But don’t be content with hearing. Every time we hear the word, we must resolve to act upon it. Since Jesus Christ is Lord, our responsibility is to do what he tells us. No exceptions. Just because you’re saved by grace through faith apart from works doesn’t mean you have a license to sin. The Ten Commandments are never the Ten Suggestions. You must obey God. That has never changed. So, how are we doing? What sort of Christianity do our lives display? How do we act in public and private, in the family and the world? Christ is calling us to conform our thoughts, desires, words, and actions to the Bible.
What does that look like? When someone hurts you, look to Christ your firm foundation and forgive them just as Christ has forgiven you. When you’re tired and worn out after a long day of work, look to Jesus and see how he served you, gave even his life on the cross for you, and long to serve him by serving others. When you’re tired and don’t feel like reading his word or going to worship, look to Jesus. When another hour of sleep seems so much better than Bible Class, look to Christ and remember what he’s done for you. When you wonder if something is right or wrong, go to the Bible and see. Desire to learn more about his love for you, encourage others and be encouraged in the word. When your body begins to break down and fail, look to the empty tomb, for that is your hope.
When we Christians examine our lives, we will find ourselves falling short of doing what Jesus says. What God said to Israel in the Old Testament reading applies to you: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Amend your ways and your doings, and I will let you dwell in this place’” (Jer 7:3). The words of Jesus are Spirit and life. They carry Divine power in them, enabling us to do what they say. God demands us to reform our ways and doings. But no human is capable of that. This is not about works righteousness. Jesus is inviting us to a way of life that is so utterly new that it will need a deep change of heart. The words of Jesus change bad trees into good trees. This happens because the Spirit works in our hearts. We have to amend our ways and doings, but the Spirit help us to want to do what Jesus says and provides us with the power to do it.
Those who keep coming, hearing, and doing Jesus’ words are those who have a well-built life. To do the words of Jesus means to amend our ways and doings, have confidence in the promise of forgiveness, and live as Jesus told us, and all these come from God’s means of grace. And then, dear friends, when the storms of trouble hit your home, when Satan huffs, and he puffs, you’ll stand firm. Then, when death or Judgment Day comes like a flood, you’ll be just fine because you’ll be firmly planted on the sure foundation—the Rock of Christ.
May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.